With less than four weeks to go for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar – Rourkela 2023, the anticipation to witness the world’s best hockey players at one of the world’s most preferred hockey destinations – Odisha, is only increasing by each passing day.
While the Indian team carries out their preparations to end the medal drought in the prestigious event, it’s time for hockey fans to relive the memories from India’s historic World Cup campaigns through Hockey India’s Flashback Series – World Cup Special.
Through this Series of articles leading up to the marquee event in Odisha, Hockey India will bring you thoughts, anecdotes and trivia from Indian Hockey Legends who ruled the world with their wizardry and panache.
Our series concludes with the recently-elected Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey, one of the most distinguished names in the sport and the only Indian hockey player to earn over 400 international caps. Among India’s most revered Captain, part of three Senior Men’s World Cups and a Gold medallist at the 1998 Asian Games, the inimitable Dilip Tirkey recalls his memories from the years gone by.
A recipient of the Padma Shri Award in 2004, Tirkey explained that donning the Indian jersey was a childhood dream, and being part of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team at a Senior World Cup or the Olympic Games, is the ultimate target.
“I played my first World Cup in 1998. It was a matter of immense pride for me that I was part of the World Cup team. It was a great experience for me at that time. I remember, there was a bit of nervousness about how I would perform, alongside the seniors. I played all the games in that edition of the tournament, and it was a really nice experience for me,” Tirkey said.
However, before making his World Cup debut, the very talented defender had Captained the Indian Men’s Hockey Team in the Men’s Champions Trophy in 1996 in Chennai. While that was one of the first major tournaments in which Tirkey led the team, he went on to Captain the Indian Men’s Hockey Team on many occasions.
“Captaining the Indian Men’s Hockey Team was a good experience no doubt, and we played some good hockey as well. I was Captain at an Olympics, World Cup and even an Asian Games, and it was definitely a very proud experience.”
A part of three Summer Olympic Games, and Captain at the Athens Games in 2004, Tirkey said that the Indian hockey fraternity were over the moon when the Indian Men’s Hockey Team returned with the Bronze Medal from the Tokyo Olympics 2020. One of the toughest defenders to face up to, Tirkey explained that India’s games against Pakistan were among the most awaited.
“Everyone keenly waited for the India vs Pakistan games. The tempo, pace and intensity in that contest are unmatched. We played Pakistan quite a few games, some we have won, while they took the honours on other occasions. And the competition between the two teams was quite tough at that time, because both sides had excellent players. And the fans would always tell us that we shouldn’t lose to Pakistan, so the pressure of the moment was quite high,” he narrated.
“The tension was always very high and the games were really close. The tickets for the India-Pakistan games were always the first ones to get sold out. And the stadiums were never not packed.”
‘India Have Quality Hockey Players, Confident We Will Do Well at FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar – Rourkela 2023’, Says Dilip Tirkey
Looking ahead to the upcoming FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar – Rourkela 2023, Tirkey hopes that not only the players but also the fans have a great time in his home state, which has always afforded the sport a lot of affection.
The former Captain went on to say that in recent years the Indian Men’s Hockey Team have been improving steadily on all fronts, whether it be fitness or the technical aspects of the game. Impressed by the steady and continued improvements over the years, Tirkey is quietly confident that the Indian Team coached by Graham Reid will do well at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar – Rourkela 2023.
“The current Indian Men’s Team is a very confident unit and the performances they have been giving in recent years have made the fans really happy. I am confident that they will do well in the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar – Rourkela 2023.”
India’s most experienced player further went on to add, “I want them to put their best foot forward and play with confidence. The team has quality players and I would like to join all of the hockey family in wishing the Indian Men’s Hockey Team all the very best for January.”