It’s Time For India To Follow Odisha Model In Nurturing Hockey And Declaring It The National Game Officially

Bhubaneswar: The World’s most prestigious sports event Olympics 2020 being held at Tokyo has brought the emotions of Indians together when the Men’s team won the Bronze Medal defeating the Germans 5:4 and the Women’s team finished fourth for the first time in history. The Men’s medal winning match saw the Indian players with highest levels of enthusiasm and effort. As the Men in Blue went for the killing, Indians were glued to the televisions to see the dare devils win their own game. The Women’s team which for the first time entered the Semi finals and took on the mighty Great Britain for the Bronze Medal lost the match but won a billion hearts with their perseverance. Tokyo 2020 saw both the Men’s and Women’s teams qualify for the semifinals after a gap of more than four decades and the Bronze at the Olympics has ignited the spirit of the Indians for Hockey.

The inspired players have significantly contributed to bring back the past glory that India was waiting for many decades. The Bronze medal for the Men’s Hockey team is a hard earned one and the fourth position for the Women is an epic one. The spectacular play and wins for both the Men’s and Women’s team, first in the qualifier matches, and then in the Quarter final matches and Semi finals, have demonstrated that the time for India has come. It completes a difficult endeavor of the Indian players who toiled day and night for years. The journey has been tough but it will continue in the days to come. Indian Hockey needs to be at the forefront of all sports and games for the love of the people of the country.

Though Cricket has been the mainstay of the country’s sports entertainment scene and attracts billions of dollars in expenditure and revenue, Hockey remains at the core of the hearts of the billion plus people. India’s greatest glory in the last century in Hockey can never be forgotten. Be it the legendary Dhyanchand and Dhanraj Pillay or Michael Kindo and Dilip Tirkey, they all have made the country proud and taken the sport to that high that no other country can parallel. Whatever be the competition, Hockey was, is and will remain in the veins of India’s sporting life.

Though it has not been officially designated as the national sport of the country, Hockey has united the people of India like no other sport. And in the development of this sport, the role of Odisha can never be ignored or forgotten. The history of Hockey in Odisha goes back to many decades. Sundargarh in Odisha has been the cradle of hockey in India. It has produced a significant number of players who have made the country proud both at the national and international levels.

The Odisha Government has also left no stone unturned to support the game in the state. Budding talents have been nurtured at the sports hostels run by the government. Hockey has become a way of life for the people in many districts such as Sundergarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur. The Government of Odisha also provisioned the highest amount of expenditure of its sports budget for the development of Hockey. In the last two decades, Odisha has done a tremendous addition in the Hockey Sports infrastructure in the state that no other state of the country has made. It has the best AstroTurf in the country. It has the best coaches to train the future players. It has set up multiple High Performance Centers for Hockey.

The success of Odisha Hockey is not confined to the infrastructure. Odisha has won the maximum number of national events in the country in the last one decade. Odisha hockey teams have won championships starting from the Sub-Junior level to the Senior level in the Men’s and Women’s categories. In the last ten years, Odisha has won a whopping 38 medals including 20 gold medals in the various national Sub-Junior, Junior and Senior Men’s and Women’s championships held in the last decade.

Odisha’s contribution to national Hockey cannot be equated with any other state. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has furthered the cause of Hockey in the country by accelerating the expenditure for the game. Kalinga Stadium in Capital City Bhubaneswar has India’s first newly built Olympic standard hockey turf of pink and blue colour. The Odisha government has also started the work of putting up AstroTurfs in 17 districts of the state that will further boost field Hockey in the state. Odisha took the bold decision of sponsoring the Indian Hockey teams for a record five years period with an estimated expenditure of Rs 150 Crore. It was the moment of reckoning for Hockey in India. The decision came as a blessing and helped revive the sport. In addition to this, the hosting of the World Cup Hockey in Bhubaneswar for the first time helped the Hockey players of the country in getting a bigger exposure of International hockey. The winning team at the Tokyo Olympics consisted maximum players from the team that played at the World Cup Hockey in Bhubaneswar. The support Odisha provided to the national teams in the last few years in terms of infrastructure and resources has been crucial in the journey of Indian teams in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar remains the silent spectator for the Team’s revival and resurgence. Hosting international events at Bhubaneswar including that of the Champions trophy and the World Cut have given the players the much needed self confidence.

Under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, team Odisha consisting of senior officials and sports enthusiasts such as 5T Secretary V K Pandian have made it possible that India can again lead the world and get back the lost glory. Not only the state and Country, Odisha has helped International Hockey grow. Recognising this effort, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has bestowed upon the Naveen the prestigious President’s Award. V K Pandian, the man behind Odisha’s Hockey obsession has also been given the FIH President’s Award for furthering the sport.

The proactive initiatives taken by the Hockey savvy Chief Minister and his team of officials including the 5T Secretary have heralded a huge come back for the game in the country. Odisha’s sponsorship of the National Hockey Teams is just another step in strengthening the sport and making it bring back the lost glory. Naveen’s agenda of backing Hockey has never been to make it commercial like Cricket….it has been to make it the National Game of India. The time has come for the Government of India to read the pulse of the country and declare Hockey as the National Game of India and truly follow Odisha’s model to further develop it.

For people of India, Hockey has been at the very core of their hearts for since long. They are emotionally attached to the sport much more than Cricket. It is high time the country declares this as the National Game and starts nurturing the children and youth for regaining the past glory. The nation can learn a lot from this Eastern State called Odisha that has become the epicenter for the revival of Hockey in India. There is no doubt that the future is bright for Hockey in India and the generations to come will have Hockey as their national game.

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