Olympian Lazarus Barla, one of the dependable Indian defenders of his time along with childhood friend Dilip Tirkey, feels the ongoing Hockey World Cup here will positively impact the sport’s ecosystem in Sundargarh district, known as the ‘Cradle of hockey’.
According to Barla, the laying of turfs in 17 blocks of the district as part of the HWC’s legacy programme will produce quality players.
“We never thought such an event would be held in our backyard. This is the best hockey stadium in the country and is the largest in the world in terms of seating capacity… This has created a lot of awareness among people. From kids to intellectuals, everyone feels involved in the event. The future looks bright.
“Each of the 17 blocks will serve as a feeding centre. Kids will compete among themselves at the block level and the best will be accommodated in various hostels for further grooming,” said Barla, who is heading the Biju Patnaik Sports Hostel, famously known as the Panposh Sports Hostel, a leading centre that has produced several international players.
Barla said when kids start learning the basics on turf, they would make quick progress.
“Earlier, there was zero facility (at the block level). Now the children will start learning hockey on the turf in the correct way. Even small things matter. For example, receiving a ball on grass and receiving it on turf require different techniques. That’s because a grass field is uneven and the turf is completely flat. The basics will be taught at the grassroots level and advanced lessons at bigger centres,” he said.
Hockey is Barla’s passion. He opted to spend time with trainees on the turf instead of continuing with his comfortable job in Bhubaneswar.
“I requested the State Government for an active role. They posted me here for three years on deputation. It was renewed in November for another three years. Whatever I have learnt, I want to pass on to the youngsters.
“I am also learning as a coach. I am the only international (from the State) who is into coaching. Had I stayed at home, then whatever experience I had gained would have been wasted. I want to give something back to the sport,” said Barla.