Kapilas Bhuyan

In a turn of event yesterday the newly formed Odisha Govt. extended the time limit of sponsoring both Indian Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams for three more years from 2033 to 2036.

On Friday afternoon while the Hockey India president former Olympian and Padmashree Dr. Dillip Tirkey and Secretary General Bholanath Singh called on the CM Mohan Charan Majhi in presence of the Minister of Sports and Youth Services Surjyabanshi Suraj, they discussed about how hockey has brought a special identity for the state on the global arena and decided to keep on the support of Odisha further.

When Shahara India withdrew its support to promote hockey in 2018, in order to keep the spirit up Odisha had stepped in as the official sponsor for the purpose for 5years until 2023. An agreement to that effect was signed between Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and Hockey India for 150 crore and this action along with organising the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar in 2018 got noticed both inside and outside the country. And there was a lot of appreciation for Odisha’s timely action from every corner.

Subsequently, by 2023 Odisha came up with the biggest Birsha Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, and held the consecutive second Hockey World Cup simultaneously at Bhubaneswar and Rourkela in November 2023.

It was a momentous moment for the sports as well as the tribal communities of the hinterland of Sundargarh which is considered as the birth place of Odisha Hockey. Besides, Dillip Tirkey, who belongs to Oraon community of Saunamara village, located about 120 km away from Rourkela where one will find every Youngman is engaged in playing hockey. Thirdly, the world class stadium was also named after an Oraon freedom fighter Birsa Munda. It was no doubt an attempt by the previous govt. to unify the tribal groups through sports.

Considering the electoral benefits in the next general election in 2024, prior to holding the the last Hockey World Cup in Odisha, on 24th April 2023 the then Naveen Patnaik govt. in a cabinet meeting sanctioned 434.12 crore to extend its sponsorship of the game until 2033.

However, contrary to the game plan the BJD under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik got lost in the 2024 elections, and Dillip Tirkey too got defeated as a MP candidate to BJP’s stalwart Juel Oram!

Thus, it is a swift move by the new CM Mohan Charan Majhi, who belongs to the Santal tribal community himself of the neighbouring district to extend the state sponsorship for Hockey India for three more years to coincide with the centenary celebration of the formation of Odisha state in the linguistic line on 1st April, 1936.

Jai ho Hockey!

(The Writer is a Senior Journalist and National Award-winning Filmmaker. Opinions are personal.)