Pradeep Pattanayak

At the very mention of Hockey, the district that instantly conjures up in our mind is Sundargarh. Go to any village in this district, known as the ‘Cradle of Indian Hockey’, you will see the enthusiasm among the youths. Gaibira village under Sabdega block is one such village which is in the centre of discussion these days for hosting a match between boys and girls hockey teams. 

According to the organisers, the objective behind organising such an unusual match between boys and girls is to do away with the gender barrier existing in the game. 

It is common to see matches played between either male teams or female teams. But, a female team playing against a male team is rare. This was the reason why a large number of hockey lovers turned up at the Gaibira village ground on Friday. 

The love for the game was quite evident from the way the spectators cheered their respective teams and the enthusiasm with which the female players played to outclass their counterparts. These players said they were happy to be part of such a different match.  

“For the first time, we got an opportunity to play with girls. The experience we derived was excellent. Such matches should frequently be organised so that the gender barrier in the game can end,” said Ranjit Lakra. 

Echoing the same feeling, a female player Sudipa Ba said, “The game we played at the Gaibira village offered us an opportunity to understand the game strategies with which our male counterparts play the game and how we can improve our skill.”

With the passage of time, many a thing has changed, be it on sports ground or in politics. But the glass ceiling still remains in many sectors. With an intention to break the ceiling, a few NGOs came forward and attempted to do something different. They said they will continue to organise such matches in the coming days as well.

According to senior hockey coach Rajendra Kujur, such an initiative will go a long way in strengthening gender equality. “The effort of the organisers is praiseworthy. It is also a step towards in women empowerment,” observed Kujur. 

“If the gender barrier between boys and girls is to be abolished, such initiatives should be taken in families and in societies,” said Alma G Barla, an organiser. 

The government is doing its bit to encourage female players. But the little effort made by the NGOs towards this goal was well appreciated.

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