How Odisha Proved To Be An Important Game Changer In Indian Hockey

Could it be a repeat of Bollywood's "Chak De! India", asks senior sports journalist Abhishek Dubey

The last 24 hours has been surreal for the Indian sports lovers. Firstly, daughter of the volleyball playing couple, PV Sindhu, etched her name in the history of Indian sports as the greatest ever individual player. She is the first Indian women to have won two back to back Olympic medals- silver in Rio 2016 and bronze in Tokyo 2020. Before her only Sushil Kumar had two back to back Olympic medals in his name. But what sets PV Sindhu apart is the fact that apart from the two Olympic medals, she has got a world championship and five world titles in her name. In terms of sheer achievements, no other Indian sportsperson could match her feat in individual sports.

In the energy packed sunday, as PV Sindhu bronze medal winning efforts had got over, Indian Men Hockey team had taken 2-0 lead over Great Britain in the Quarter finals. Though, Great Britain managed to narrow that lead to 1-2. But Hardik Singh produced the moment of brilliance as he scored in the final quarters to extend India’s lead to 3-1. India had stormed to the Olympics Hockey semi-finals after the wait of more than more decade. Infact the last time India had reached the semifinals of the Olympics more than two-third of its current population were not even born. As the historicity of the moment was seeping in, Indian Olympics Association President and Indian Hockey Federation Chief posted a picture in his Whatsapp group. The picture spoke more then thousands words

As Indian Men Hockey team was creating history in Tokyo, faraway at his official residence in Bhubaneswar, the Chief Minister of the state, Naveen Patnaik, was silently standing up and cheering for the team. If one state which has supported Indian hockey the most when it was facing existential crisis, it has to be the state of Odisha under the leadership of Naveen Pathnayak. In a first in Indian sports, a state government came forward to sponsor the national team. On 16th February, 2018, Odisha government announced a five year deal with Hockey India to replace Sahara as the sponsor of all national teams- junior and senior, men and women, in a deal estimated to be 150 crores. The state government owns the Kalinga Lancers Franchise in the Indian Hockey League.

Earlier, Bhuvneshwar had hosted International tournaments like 2014 Champions Trophy and 2017 Hockey World League finals. The sponsorship from the state of Odisha for the Indian hockey came when it’s earlier sponsor Sahara was in bad economic shape and Indian hockey had the busiest year ahead. The men and women’s team were to take part in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Women’s World Cup was scheduled in July and Men’s world cup in Bhubaneswar latter in 2018. The state has a strong legacy in indian sports with the greats like Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey and Lazalus Barla representing the country in the past. Later on Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey and Namita Toppo proudly carried forward the baton. Odisha is all set to host 2023 World Cup with the state of art world class hockey stadium getting ready in Rourkela. In nuteshell, when others were busy discussing what ails Indian hockey, Odisha walked the talk and played it’s part in finding solutions for the same.

As the country woke up in the Monday morning, Indian Women Team further stunned the world when they defeated the tournament favorites Australia 1-0 and marched into the semifinals. These 24 hours will inspire kids from the traditional hockey centers all across the country to take up the game. There will be no looking back for Indian Hockey from here as the sports will get huge impetus. In the golden era of Indian hockey, it was said that Indians are born with two legs and third being the hockey stick. The third leg got weakened and gradually invisible for the long period of time. As there are clearer signs of the third leg regaining it’s strength, two crucial contribution needs to be emphasized. Firstly, the support from the state of Odisha in terms of sponsorship and infrastructure. Secondly, the way Sports Authority of India has backed the teams of every age group over the last few years. The results of last 24 hours are culmination of this process This is a cue for the other state governments to come forward, adopt a sports and be the part of the change they want to see.

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