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Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The bronze medal winning performance of the Indian men’s hockey team and the inspiring performance of the women’s team in the recently-concluded Tokyo Olympics has increased the sports enthusiasm in Odisha. It has prompted the State Government to develop sports infrastructure at the grassroots level. 

However, the tragic tale of sportspersons of national and international repute languishing in severe poverty continues to crop up and demotivate other aspiring and budding sportspersons in the State to take a full plunge into an uncertain career.

Take the case of former national level hockey player from Rourkela-Santosh Majhi who has been working as a migrant labour to make ends meet. The 26-year-old former full-back of Odisha from Lulkidihi village of Sundargarh district once represented the State in Senior National Men’s Championship. But seven years later, Majhi’s world is far removed from the world of hockey as he migrated to Goa to work in fishing trawlers. He too took to farming to support his family.

“I have played two National Championships and several State level tournaments. But I didn’t get any support from anybody. Now I have no alternative than to go out searching for work,” said Majhi.
Majhi’s village Lulkidihi has produced at least two Olympians- Deepgrace Ekka of the women’s hockey team, former Olympian Ignace Tirkey and seven other international players.
“It really hurts when I see several international players from my village flourishing and at the same time I am suffering in poverty,” lamented Majhi.
Meanwhile, Sundargarh Collector Nikhil Pavan Kalyan has assured to look into the matter.
“There is provision in the government for the welfare of neglected players and we have also come across few of them. We are having a total relook and we will definitely come up with a plan to redress it,” said Kalyan.

The case of international and national level kho-kho players Satyajit Singh and Jagannath Murmu is no different.
While Satyajit has represented the gold winning Indian team in the South Asian Games, Jagannath has brought laurels for the State in several national level tournaments.

However, both the players from Mayurbhanj are facing severe financial constraints and staring at an uncertain future, thanks to the government apathy. Now, they are preparing for jobs in Balasore. However, their national level medals and certificates have not helped them bagging a government job so far.

“Our competitors in other states are pursuing their career smoothly as their respective governments have provided them jobs. But we are still struggling due to government apathy,” said Satyajit.

Meanwhile Balasore district sports officer Purnachandra Jena said the government will soon provide them sports identification cards.

“The district administration is aware about the feat of the two kho-kho players. We will soon provide them with sports identification cards and by producing the cards they would bag government jobs under sports quota,” said Jena.

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