Sponsorship for sports teams and sportspeople, unless it is cricket, is often tricky. However, taking a decision which could potentially revolutionise the sponsorship game, the Odisha government has decided to sponsor the Indian hockey teams, for both men and women, for the next five years.
In 2017, both the teams performed very well. The Indian men’s hockey team defeated Malaysia to lift the 2017 Men’s Hockey Asia Cup, while the Indian women’s hockey team defeated China, and won the 2017 Women’s Hockey Asia Cup.
Naveen Patnaik, Odisha’s Chief Minister, made the announcement in New Delhi on Thursday at a function, where both the men’s and women’s national teams were present. Dignitaries like International Hockey Federation and IOA President Narinder Batra, IOA General Secretary Rajeev Mehta, amongst others, were in attendance.
In his speech, Patnaik explained how hockey in Odisha, was a way of life and mentioned that the state has produced some of India’s finest hockey talents. According to the Chief Minister, the sponsorship will have a two-pronged effect—promote hockey within its boundaries, and support and nurture the sport.
The Odisha Government revealed little else, apart from a logo, that the players will don on their jerseys. Comprising of the Konark Wheel, Odisha’s coastline, endangered Olive Ridley Turtles, and Odissi dance form, the logo is representative of Odisha.
Hockey and Odisha are very closely related, as Patnaik correctly pointed out. Former hockey players, Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirey, Lazarus Barla, and current team members, namely, Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Deepsan Tirkey and Namita Toppo, are all from Odisha. The state has hosted landmark hockey events, like the 2014 Champions Trophy, and the Hockey World League Final in 2017. Befittingly, Odisha is hosting the World Cup, this November and December.
Batra, the hockey federation president, said Bhubaneshwar has emerged as India’s new sports capital, not unlike Mumbai the financial capital, and Bengaluru the IT capital. He requested the Odisha Government to provide facilities, to encourage this. He envisages a High-Performance Centre for elite athletes.
Hockey is played with great enthusiasm amongst the youth in India. In December, International Hockey Federation CEO Jason McCracken and Batra announced that India would be part of the Pro League. The IHF chief also seemed optimistic about the sport’s future, as a number of events in this sport are coming up, including two World Cups, two Champions Trophies, as well as the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
Let us hope, the Odisha State Government’s backing gives the national teams, and the sport itself, a boost, in turn giving fresh talent, the opportunity to shine.