Dilip Tirkey: Eleven-a-side and five-a-side hockey formats can co-exist

Like other sports, outdoor hockey needs more than one form, believes three-time Olympian and former defender Dilip Tirkey.

Dilip Tirkey...“Having two formats is always beneficial.”   -  M. Vedhan

Three-time Olympian Dilip Tirkey feels the newly promoted Hockey5s, a shorter version of the sport, should complement and co-exist with the traditional 11-a-side format to make hockey more popular.

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At a time when the International Hockey Federation (FIH) is promoting Hockey5s, the traditional format should be protected to retain the charm of the sport, according to Tirkey. “This (11-a-side) should continue as the main format. Duration of a match should be kept the same — 70 minutes (instead of the curtailed 60 minutes). I think it’s being played for less time now,” Tirkey told Sportstar while watching a match of the Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium here.

Different avatar

Like other sports, outdoor hockey needed more than one form, believes Tirkey. “Hockey5s can emerge as a different avatar. In tennis, we have singles and doubles, in shooting and athletics there are different events, too. Having two formats is always beneficial.”


Tirkey was happy with the advancement the sport has made in recent times. “Hockey has changed in the last eight to 10 years. It has become faster. A lot of scientific inputs have enhanced the performances. That’s the reason why new countries like France, Ireland and China are giving tough fights to traditional teams in this World Cup,” he said.

Improved fitness

“Various rule changes like self-passing and the freedom to raise one’s stick have made the sport faster. Fitness level of players has increased leaps and bounds. If you have proper fitness, then only you can play. Players have become more confident because of their fitness,” he added.

"Hockey 5s should emerge as a different avatar," says Tirkey. Argentina's players celebrate after winning the women's gold-medal Hockey 5s match against India at the Youth Olympic Games in October, 2018. Photo: Getty Images


Tirkey, an accomplished defender during his days, said better fitness and new tactics blurred the division between a defender and a midfielder. “Now there is a little difference between the full backs and midfielders. You can see a lot of interchanges and rotations between the defence and midfield with players going back and forth,” he said.

‘New dimension’

For Tirkey, finding new hockey followers in his home State is a novel experience. He is pleased to see the crowd appreciating quality contests instead of just rooting for the home country. “This is a new dimension of the sport. Earlier, we have seen empty stands when the host is not in action. Not here, though. Hockey has changed the profile of a place like Bhubaneswar. The number of fans has increased,” said Tirkey.

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