Naveen Repeat Curiosity, Doon Days Goal Keeper Cares For Hockey As Much As For Politics

  • | Tuesday | 17th August, 2021

 DN Singh 

When a child in Sundergarh starts toddling, he holds a hockey stick to walk rather than the fingers of the parents.  

The passion slowly saturates to make a Dilip Tirkey, Ignes Tirkey, or Lazrus Barla of them. The ones who have helped the image of Indian hockey extol to the orbits.

It was a trip to Sundergarh a few years back and as we entered the periphery of Saunamara, the village of Dilip Tirkey, the legendary hockey player, something triggered our curiosity.  

We came to see a herd of cattle grazing in an open field where three to four little boys were the shepherds. All of them were playing hockey, with make-shift hockey sticks made of branches and the ball made of clothes bundled together.

A little one among them caught our attention. He was half-clad and his shorts had no buckle or button to fasten so, he had to catch his pant in one hand tightly and holding the stick in the other. Unmindful about our presence he was playing.

But the show must go on and his resolve for the game could not have been manifested better.  In fact, he was one among thousands of children of Sundergarh who begin their childhood with hockey sticks as their company.

This speaks a lot about how hockey has remained an integral part of Sundergarh which can be read as a treasure house of sports.

This year’s record feat at the Tokyo Olympics by India must have redoubled the spirits of the growing talents here to take the name of India a notch higher at the proposed Hockey World Cup in 2023.

The Silent Custodian

In collaboration with Hockey India, the government of Odisha has volunteered to host both men’s and women’s WC in Odisha.  In Rourkela, in Sundergardh, the country’s largest hockey stadium construction is underway with the assistance of Hockey India.

And the chief minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, has remained a silent custodian of hockey for last many years, almost giving the sports a facelift as never before.

The FIH World Cup 2018 was hosted in Bhubaneswar for which the chief minister Naveen Patnaik was instrumental and he has already made the way forward to host the 2023 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.

A Doon school product, Patnaik too had a brief stint with the sports as a goal-keeper. So he must be having some impulses of the game and his quest to find the rightful place for the innumerable talents in Sundergarh can be viewed as a revisit.

Sundergarh The Hub

A smooth drive into the interiors of the Sundergarh district from where the great talents like Tirkeys and Barlas, Ignes Tirkey or Prabodh Tirkeys emerged, is very difficult. It required mineral patience and time to reach the villages of Dilips or Lazrus.

After a short drive followed by a trek when we had a tryst with a dusky young lady called Sunita Lakra, then accompanying her mother from the paddy field but with a hockey stick in one hand.

Who knew that the lady in question would one day spearhead the Indian team at the international level.

 Then, the takeaway from the former Olympian and India’s World Cup-winning defender, Michel Kindo, who was working then as a chief coach with SAI, Rourkela, was encouraging. “ Give me a choice and I can give India eleven players from Sundergarh only, who would never disappoint India at any level of competition,” said the former, and formidable defender, of the Indian team, Kindo.

In every household in Sundergarh, one can say, that there is a hockey player.  

So the Odisha chief minister’s endeavor to pitchfork Odisha as a promontory of Hockey is never off the mark. But what visibly seems lacking is a bit of luck and lobby.         

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