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Hockey getting more popular in Odisha, thanks to Coal India HIL: Tirkey

by Prithviraj Sahu

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The junior India Vice Captain feels that fan following for hockey is on the rise due to the home franchise Kalinga Lancers

New Delhi: With no international exposure before playing in the 2014 Coal India Hockey India League, Dipsan Tirkey from Sundargarh village in Odisha had to make use of the opportunity he was handed when he was picked to play for Kalinga Lancers, a Coal India HIL franchise based out of Bhubaneswar.

Dipsan Tirkey Kalinga Lancers
Dipsan Tirkey

“It was a big platform for me as I had not played any international match for the junior team yet. All I had was match exposure at the national level when I got picked for the Kalinga Lancers in 2014,” recalls Tirkey who was called for Junior India camp in 2013, Bengaluru, but had not made it to the national side.

It was post of his Coal India HIL performance that Tirkey made it to the junior India team for the Sultan of Johor Cup, where he debuted, in 2014.

“I got to learn a lot from foreign players and built a personal rapport with them. Glenn Simpson from Australia and I shared a special bond as he would always correct me and would tell me how you mark man-to-man while playing defense. These aspects helped me improve my game and my confidence,” he admits.

Playing in the Coal India HIL was not only a learning curve for this 18-year-old India defender but it also gave him recognition among his own community – the local people of Odisha.

“Until then, people didn’t know much about hockey. Of course, Padma Shri Dr. Dilip Tirkey was most popular but the people of Odisha had never gotten to watch big ticket international level hockey. Bringing Coal India HIL to Bhubaneswar ensured people thronged the stadium during matches. With more and more international matches like the FIH Champions Trophy being played in Odisha, people have started to follow hockey regularly and have started to recognize young players like me,” admits Tirkey who hails from a humble, farming background.

According to Tirkey, hockey was popular among tribal belts like Sundargarh but had failed to attract the urban dwellers until Coal India HIL kicked off.

“During Coal India HIL, the entire city has posters and hoardings of hockey players. There is a lot of buzz created and people do get excited about the level of hockey that’s being played. They get to see the biggest players in international hockey and the matches are all high intensity. Cricket, until now, was the obvious choice of sport but I feel that’s changing now as people get to see that a career can be made from hockey too,” Tirkey adds.

Tirkey along with Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Vikramjit Singh and Gurinder Singh formed a formidable defense structure during the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men Lucknow 2016 where India defeated Belgium in the Final to lift the Title.

While congratulatory messages poured in from all quarters for the junior team’s stupendous success, Tirkey holds one such phone call most dear to him. This call was made by his idol and former India Captain Padma Shri Dr. Dilip Tirkey, who is now a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.

“I was extremely thrilled to receive his call. It was a very humble gesture from him and it means the world to me that my idol personally called to congratulate me. It is very motivating to know that he follows junior hockey so closely. He said he would like to meet me when I return home to Sundargarh and I am over the moon,” says an elated Tirkey.

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