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Photo: indiatoday

Led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Odisha is now the nerve centre of Indian hockey. As the Men’s World Cup kicks off in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, a look at Sundargarh district reveals the depths of passion that the game summons up

Suhani Singh

Rourkela,ISSUE DATE: Jan 23, 2023 | UPDATED: Jan 13, 2023 16:46 IST

An aerial view of the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium complex in Rourkela, Odisha

An aerial view of the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium complex in Rourkela, Odisha

Rourkela is all dressed up for a carni­val of sport. Colourful Pipili appliqué lampshades hang from trees; bright murals of hockey, yoga poses, Odissi dancers, birds, flowers and more adorn walls; the Hockey Chowk, studded with sculptures, lights up at night, as does the hockey-themed Champions Garden. Then, there is five-time Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik smiling down from innumerable hoardings, along with Olly the green turtle, who is the official mascot of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023. Odisha is the first state to host back-to-back editions of the world’s premier hockey tournament. This time around, in addition to Bhubaneswar, it is bringing the best of the world to the garh (den) of hockey—the mineral-rich district of Sundargarh—which has seen around 60 players, male and female, play for the national teams, most popular among them former captain Dilip Tirkey, currently president, Hockey India. Indeed, the fact that Odisha are now equal sharers with Punjab of the title ‘the nursery of Indian hockey’ is well acknowledged. Its hosting a second World Cup in five years and the passionate involvement of everyone on the ground shows the depths to which the game’s popularity has spread here.

The Hockey Chowk in Rourkela; (Photo: Chandradeep Kumar)

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