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Odisha erupts in joy as Dilip Tirkey becomes Hockey India chief

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha erupted in joy as local lad Dilip Tirkey was on Friday unanimously elected president of Hockey India becoming the first state native to occupy the top sports body post.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik hoped the game will scale new heights under Dilip, himself an illustrious player. “I am sure, being an illustrious player himself from the cradle of Indian hockey, he will take the game to new heights. Wish him all the very best,” part of a tweet by Naveen reads.

The position came to Tirkey at an opportune moment when Odisha is busy preparing for hosting the 2023 Men's FIH Hockey World Cup at Bhubaneswar and Rourkela from January 13 to 29.

Odisha sports secretary R Vineel Krishna described it as a proud moment for the state. “It’s a great honour and I am sure this will inspire a new generation of hockey players from Odisha. Under Tirkey’s leadership, there will be a fresh momentum towards hockey development not only in Odisha, but across India,” Krishna said.

It is more than just a personal feat for Tirkey as Odisha’s people and the government are strongly associated with the national sport. Odisha has been sponsoring the men and women teams since 2018. While the state had first signed a Rs 140 crore agreement with Hockey India in 2018 to sponsor for five years the men and women teams after Sahara withdrew, the state extended the sponsorship till 2033.

The former Indian hockey team captain, who has been working as chairman of Odisha Hockey Promotion Council, says he will work hard to take Indian hockey to a height of new glory. “I will ensure that Indian hockey reaches to new heights,” he said.

Born in a modest family in Saunamara, a tiny tribal village of around 2000 population, what is now Odisha’s famed hockey village, Dilip rose on to captain India and is considered among most difficult defenders of his time. His village has produced many men and women players for India, the others being Amit Rohidas, Subhadra Pradhan, Bikas Toppo and Dipsan Tirkey, among others.

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