Mrunal Manmay Dash

With just a few days to the biggest carnival of World Hockey, all eyes are now focused on Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. Swanky new stadiums, sparkling streets and shuttling public transport system define these cities where the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup will be held.

However, the breeding ground of Odisha Hockey, in fact, Indian hockey, Lulkidihi village under Sundargarh’s Balishankara block is still reeling without a decent playing ground for the budding players to hone their skills.

The village, which is home to the greats like Prabodh Tirkey, Ignesh Tirkey and Deep Grace Ekka, does not feature in the 17 Astro turfs planned by the Odisha government in Sundargarh district.

It is pertinent to mention here that Odisha government has plans to make 17 Astro turfs in 17 blocks of the district which produces the maximum number of hockey players in the State. In fact, the Balishankara block has two Astro turfs sanctioned including one at Saunamara village, the home of Hockey India President, Dilip Tirkey.

However, the locals of Lulukidihi rue that more youth play hockey in Lulkidihi and it has far greater potential to create world-class hockey players than anywhere else. Despite that, the village lacks a decent playing field, forget about an Astro turf.

Arun Sahu, a local hockey player said, “We all want to play hockey. But our village lacks even the basic amenities.”

Mukesh Gupta, a local said, “People can’t even afford hockey sticks here. Lulkidihi is neglected like anything. Despite so many great players emerging from this village, we do not have a playground here.”

Meanwhile, the youths in Lulkidihi continue to play with sticks arranged as goal posts and uneven fields which do not resemble as playing ground from any angle. However, with the World Cup around the corner, they have their goals set to jump over all the hurdles and be players like Ignesh and Prabodh Tirkey.

(Reported By Vijay Barua, OTV)