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Ayushi Agarwal

IWB Blogger

The Land Of Hockey: Sundergarh Grooms Girls To Become Champions

  • IWB Post
  •  November 2, 2015


Dillip Tirkey, Lazarus Barla, Subhadra Pradhan, Jyoti Sunita Kullu and Binita Tappo are names of few famous Hockey players, which most of us are unaware of. But, these names are held next to God for the children of Sundergarh, a tiny district of Odisha. This region is also known as the Hockey District of India.

Most of our Hockey knowledge is limited to what ‘Chak-De India’ taught us. Hockey might be a terribly underrated  sport for the rest of India, but here in Sundargarh, champions of tomorrow are being trained and polished.

Young girls and boys carry their school bags and an added accessory, i.e. a hockey stick. Local government schools not only provide education to these enthusiastic individuals, but also teach them Hockey with regular opportunities to battle it out!

Chulu Barla, a former sarpanch of Sounamara, who loves playing the game himself, points out, “Today, Sundargarh is famous nationally and internationally, as it has produced some great hockey talent. You name any player from Odisha and s/he can trace their roots back to this region. In the rural areas particularly, everyone is at home on the hockey field. What I love about the game is the fact that we can all play it freestyle and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.”

He adds, “Though no one really knows when we started playing the game in these parts, our elders have told us that they picked it up from the Christian missionaries who had come to our villages several generations back.”

This was chiefly a recreational game earlier and we used to play with unusual equipment, too. The stick used to be fashioned out of a piece of bamboo gathered from the nearby forest and we would collect plastic items and melt them to make a ball. Nowadays, everything is more organized and parents are even willing to save up to buy proper, standard equipment. Both sons and daughters are encouraged to play and get glory for the community.”

This un-coached, freestyle way of playing have emerged several top stars of the game. In fact, talent scouts from both the Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility at Sundergarh district headquarters and the Panposh District Sports Hostel see these villages as the training grounds for the legends of the future.

According to Father Isidore Kindo of Jagatmata Church in Sounamara, “Most parents do not see their daughters as any less talented than their sons. So the support that girls receive is equal. And even when it comes to coaching opportunities or selection matches for a place in the state or national team, the elders root for both sexes.”

Such a refreshing mindset. Kudos!

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