Article by Arumugam, courtesy Stick2Hockey.com.
Photograph credit FIH
he World Cup is over. A million eyeballs watched 20 days of action in
Bhubaneswar. The manner in which the event was organized impressed all. But it was
all possible largely because crores of rupees were pumped in to make the
World Cup a big-ticket event.
The last six months have witnessed a chain of events that culminated in
the grand World Cup finale on December 16 at Kalinga Stadium.
The logo release, the trophy unveiling, three-hour opening ceremony,
promotion events involving Bollywood bigwigs in a non-host city, sports
literature festival, publication of souvenir books, exhibition matches
involving living legends, felicitation of the 1975 World Cup winning
team members, the invitation and hospitality for ambassadors of the
visiting teams, et al were meticulously planned and executed.
The promotion of the World Cup was simply awe-inspiring. Stars
from other sports were invited to regale the crowd and boost media
coverage. Sachin Tendulkar, the cricketing legend graced the final. His
former teammates Anil Kumble and Virendra Sehvag also made appearances
in earlier matches. Wrestling icon Sushil Kumar, shooting sensation Gagan Narang and
tennis legend Leander Paes were other prominent sportspersons at the
venue on invitation as well.
Now that the show is over, it's time to introspect. To look back and
look forward through all the buzz, hype and hoopla that the event
generated. Has the World Cup left behind a legacy?
Firstly, it seems the capacity 15,000 crowd that thronged the stadium
daily was the result of the wide promotion and ensuing publicity the
event received. Would these new-found fans of the game stay connected to the game
given that there is little or no hockey activity in the city?
It's a pity that the refurbished and enlarged stadium with its new
artificial pitches may not see national level activity in the near
future - not even age group national champions. Neither are there any all-India tournaments set in Bhubaneswar. The
Mango Cup, held annually in the past, is now defunct.
And now, the very basic question: How many schools in Bhubaneswar
play hockey to justify notions that the city is a hub for the game? In the run-up to the World Cup that a leading newspaper and the
Odisha Government jointly organized an inter-school competition. Just four schools participated!
Bhubaneswar city has about 200 schools out of which just five or six
field hockey teams and only a couple of colleges patronize the sport. Now we can understand why not many 'clinics' with schools were not
held when every team had at least 3,4 days gap between matches at least
twice. We saw only a solitary occasion of a foreign team going to a public
school during the World Cup.
For that matter, just a lone district in Odisha - Sundergarh -
produces hockey players, with the rest of the state contributing almost
zero from the remaining 29 districts. That Sundergarh boasts of producing 50 international players is
praiseworthy, but for hockey to be a sport followed by a far wider
audience, the situation is worrisome.
Bhubaneswar may have hosted a great
World Cup but the sport has not penetrated the city and it's a point to
ponder. The sport should spread like it has in Punjab and Haryana if Odisha
wants to acquire the tag of hockey capital of the country. And there's a long way to go.
The subject of hockey's little or no presence in educational
institutions was broached by this writer with many officials and former
players in Odisha. Not many knew the way forward. Unless and until more schools and colleges take up hockey as a
spin-off benefit of the interest generated by the World Cup, the future
of the sport in Odisha appears bleak.
With the absence of a roadmap to effectively utilize the
awareness and interest created in the city and the state in the last few
months, the gains may all have been wasted. Hockey, many claim, is way of life in Odisha. The above observations
render it a cliché, a refrain without rationale.
But there's yet time to turn it around and indeed make hockey a way
of life in this land. What's needed is that hockey be played in
every block, tehsil and district level.
And it shouldn't be confined to the Tirkeys, Lakras, Ekkas, Minz and
Orams. It should spread to the Rauls, Patnaiks, Panis, Panigrahis,
Beheras, Doras, Deos, Gaudas, Jenas, Mahantys, Mahabatras, Naiks, Ojhas,
Rauts and Rays. The Sahoos and Swains should also pick up the stick and wouldn't that
give width and depth to hockey in Odisha?
The state used to contribute more players to the national teams in
the recent past than at present. Isn't that a sign that the sport in
Odisha is not at its best even now?
If Odisha wants to really head the Indian hockey provenance, it's now
time to act, spread the game, take it to schools and colleges the length
and breadth of the state. Only then can we reap benefit from the enormous expenditure of
the World Cup, and usher in the state as a sports conscious and a sports-driven society.