“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” Is a quote from Acts 5:42. However, with the Indian hockey, touching the pinnacle again, Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Orissa has proved to be messiah of the Indian hockey. The route of renaissance of the Indian hockey was charted by Patnaik nearly six decades back.
Destiny had destined it during Naveen’s days at Doon School in Dehra Doon as a goal keeper of his alma mater. It was a difficult task to guard the citadel of the team. Nevertheless, he learnt the basic trait not to let your guards down any time. As Chief Minister, Odra Desha, he picked up the gauntlet and decided to earnestly try to resuscitate the Indian Hockey out of the ICU and infuse new life in its functioning. He provided patronage and promoted hockey in a big way.
“No is a word that finds no place in his dictionary. There is no “will try” as well. Whenever an opportunity came Patnaik’s way, he knew it was “Do it,” for him. There was no running away from challenges for him. When he got into thick of things, he just went ahead with conviction and delivered
Patnaik started his hockey venture humbly in 2018 by coming forward to support the hockey national team. It needed basic but modern hockey infrastructure. Kalinga Stadium sprang up in no time as a world-class venue. It led to Odisha organizing the 2018 World Cup Hockey tournament to test its newly created facilities. He earned kudos from the International Hockey Federation for the conduct of the mega hockey event with silken smoothness.
The suave, Odisha CM believes in adage of taking bull by the horns and decided to throw his hat in the Indian hockey ring. He was candid about his national commitment, “Someone has to take responsibility, to spare embarrassment to the country and the sport.” The move paid off in a big way and hockey became a favourite sport of the state. The result was even street urchins started playing hockey with a bamboo shoot or widely grown kendu tree branch. The hockey tournaments started matching the level of popularity and festivities of Lord Jagannath’s Ratha Yatra. The essence of hockey has become part and parcel of the psyche of the people of Odisha. A local scribe told me that a hockey medal can fetch a youngster a good job and even a beautiful bride.
The journey of Indian hockey is full of agony and hardship. The Odishian odyssey with the Indian hockey was full of trial and tribulations. However, CM Patnaik subscribes to the adage, “Today’s pain is tomorrow’s power. The more you suffer today, the stronger you are tomorrow.” The results at Tokyo Games are testimony of Patnaik’s belief.
Patnaik’s faith in the Indian hockey came to the fore when the Indian girls shocked the Aussie dames for its maiden entry into Olympic semi-final and lo! CM Odisha gave a standing ovation to the triumphant team. He was again in the forefront when men’s team won bronze after a hiatus of more than four decades by offering felicitations to the team on their fabulous win. It will inspire generations of sportspersons and hoped for bright future for the hockey India.
The Govt. of Odisha lent the helping hand by providing support of Rs. 120 crore for both men’s and women’s national teams toward building infrastructure and logistical support when Sahara refrained from sponsoring hockey India. Even the expenses of both teams for boarding, training, education and nurturing talent are borne by the state. Behind the epic hockey India win are sincere efforts and unflinching support of the official machinery of the Govt. of Odisha led by the CM, sports minister Tusharkanti Behera and secretary sports department R. Vineel Krishna. There was perfect synergy between the political establishment and the state bureaucracy.