The Indian women’s hockey team scripted history at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, reaching the semifinals of the Olympic hockey event for the first time in history. A day prior to this, the Indian men’s hockey team booked a semifinals berth after an interval of 49 years.

The Indian Men’s Hockey Team at Tokyo

While India has been the world’s most successful country in men’s hockey at the Olympic Games with eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals, the Indian women are eyeing a maiden Olympic medal. Their last best Olympic appearance was in the 1980 Moscow Games, where they finished fourth among six competing countries.

While the nation is overjoyed by the splendid spree of victories by both men’s and women’s hockey team, not many know Odisha’s contribution in injecting this confidence of victory among these hockey wizards.

CM Naveen Patnaik with the Indian women’s and men’s hockey team

Veteran journalists Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai were among those who thanked CM Patnaik and the state of Odisha for India’s success on Twitter. Gupta tweeted: “Celebrate the joy of 2 hockey teams in Olympic S-F, remember to send a humble thank-you note to Odisha and its CM @Naveen_Odisha ….For 6 years now, the not-so-rich state has sponsored & nursed both men and women’s hockey teams. If only more states were to spend on sport.”

“The one neta who deserves a big salaam today is @Naveen_Odisha. At a time when most netas want to be BCCI members, corporates want IPL glamour, Odisha govt has invested in hockey, sponsored both women and men’s team, built world class infra. Take a bow Odisha!” Sardesai joined in.

How Did Odisha Help?

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is himself an adherent hockey lover. According to a report published in Outlook, Patnaik played hockey as a goalkeeper during his school days. He once described hockey in Odisha as “a way of life, especially in our tribal regions, where children learn to walk with hockey sticks”.

Murals on the streets of Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital

“No wonder, Odisha has produced some of India’s finest hockey players. This is a first where a state government will not just be promoting a sport within its boundaries but will support and nurture the national teams,” he had said further.

True to his words, CM Patnaik signed a whopping Rs 150 crore sponsorship deal for five years with Hockey India for both men’s and women’s national hockey teams in 2018. Following a dismal show at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the sponsorship helped build confidence in each of the players representing India at the biggest stage.

Odisha: The Birthplace of Hockey Talents

In the last few decades, Odisha has produced numerous hockey talents who made India proud at the world level. The Sundargarh district of Odisha has given India its five national team captains in Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey, Subhadra Pradhan and Jyoti Sunita Kulu. According to a report published by The New Indian Express in 2018, Sundargarh has produced over 60 international hockey players, including Olympians like Birendra Lakra, Lazarus Barla, William Xalco and Sunita Lakra.

Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium is among the top hockey stadiums across the globe. The state government is building another stadium, Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium, in Rourkela. With a budget of over Rs.120 crore, the Rourkela stadium is being constructed to host the 2023 Men’s World Cup.

Kalinga Stadium at Bhubaneswar

Odisha has successfully hosted some of the biggest international hockey events in the past. It is the only state in the world to be selected to host the Men’s Hockey World Cup for a second consecutive edition in 2023.

CM Naveen Patnaik with the captains of international hockey teams at Radharani temple, Bhubaneswar

To ensure world-class training and support the budding young talent at the grassroot level, the Odisha government also fundsa High Performance Centre at the Kalinga Stadium Sports Complex. Time and again, Odisha has proved that its love for hockey is unbeatable.