For Odisha’s tribal-dominated hockey cradle Sundargarh district, where people are used to seeing a goat as a trophy in a rural tournament, the conduct of the Men’s World Cup at Rourkela, a joint host of the mega event along with Bhubaneswar, will be a dream opportunity to watch the best teams compete from Friday. It took a generous decision from the Odisha government to sponsor the Indian national teams and then hold the World Cup in Bhubaneswar in 2018. It took an even bigger decision by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to organise it in two cities, officially for the first time, in 2023. The State government had to adopt a three-pronged approach to tackle logistical issues. It spent ₹260 crore to build a new stadium which has the capacity to hold 20,000 spectators; constructed a 225-room five-star facility to accommodate players and officials; and readied an airport for commercial flights in Rourkela within a limited time frame. The pandemic was a major impediment, but the Odisha government was strong-willed. India will now become the first country to hold the World Cup in consecutive editions and for the fourth time. Steel City Rourkela will be the fourth Indian city to organise the event. Sundargarh was exposed to hockey by the Christian missionaries in the 1860s. It has come a long way since then to produce top stars including former India captain and current Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey, Lazarus Barla, William Xalxo, Birendra Lakra, Jyoti Sunita Kullu, Subhadra Pradhan and Deep Grace Ekka. The district will now see two of its sons — vice-captain Amit Rohidas and Nilam Sanjeep Xess — sport India colours on its soil.
For the first time in over four decades, India is approaching a World Cup as an Olympic medallist following its 2021 bronze win in Tokyo. The hunger for success will be intense as India — which bagged a bronze medal in 1971, a silver in 1973 and a gold in 1975 — had its last podium finish in a World Cup nearly 48 years ago. Coached by the Australian World Cup and Olympic medallist Graham Reid, the home team, which was a quarter-finalist in the last edition and is now a blend of youth and experience, will be keen for a fruitful campaign. Irrespective of where India finishes, the 16-team event is all set to bolster Odisha’s reputation to organise big-ticket sporting events.
To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.
To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.
To read this editorial in Malayalam, click here.
To read this editorial in Telugu, click here.