Odisha government to sponsor India’s hockey team

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced the unique tie-up at a grand function in New Delhi.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik (second from left) alongside Indian players at a function in New Delhi on Thursday.   -  R. V. Moorthy

The State government of Odisha has decided to sponsor the Indian hockey team for the next five years.

The announcement was made in the presence of distinguished and relevant dignitaries by the State’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik during a grand function here on Thursday. Among those present were the Indian men’s and women’s hockey team players, International Hockey Federation (FIH) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra, and IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta.

Odisha government also unveiled its logo that will decorate the new jerseys of both teams.

‘Gift to the nation’

Commenting on the association, Patnaik said: “Hockey in Odisha is more than a sport, it’s a way of life, especially in our tribal regions where children learn to walk with hockey sticks. No wonder Odisha has produced India’s finest hockey talent. This is a first where a State government will not just be promoting a sport within its boundaries but will also support and nurture India hockey. This is Odisha’s gift to the nation.”

Odisha is regarded as a cradle of hockey and has produced greats like Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey and Lazarus Barla in the past. The current Indian teams also possess players from the State - Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Deepsan Tirkey and Namita Toppo, among others.

‘Sports capital’ of India

Odisha has been supporting the game with various initiatives; it owns the the Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League. State capital Bhubaneswar has hosted international tournaments like the 2014 Champions Trophy and last year’s Hockey World League Final. Odisha is also the host and title sponsor of the men’s World Cup to be held later this year.

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The newly designed logo on the Indian national hockey team jersey represents a summation of Odisha - the Konark wheel, the state’s famed coastline, endangered Olive Ridley turtles, Odissi dance form and hockey.

FIH president Batra called Bhubaneswar the sports capital of India. He requested the State government to build a state-of-the-art High Performance Centre for elite athletes of the country. “I would request the government of Odisha to come up with a High Performance Centre for elite athletes. Like Delhi is the capital of India, Bombay the financial capital of the country, Bengaluru IT capital, for me Bhubaneswar is the sports capital of the country,” Batra said.

The opening ceremony of the World Cup will be held a day before the start of the event, Batra said.

The World Cup will be held from November 28 to December 16 this year.

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