Odisha government will conduct the Biju Patnaik Rural Hockey championship to promote tribal youth to take up the national sport, former India hockey captain and Rajya Sabha MP Dileep Tirkey announced on Friday.
“In some pockets of Odisha, Maoists are very strong and they always look to increase their numbers. We have so many talented hockey players, but many of them are forced to pick up guns instead of hockey sticks. It has a lot to do with the poverty and the lack of education in the region,” Tirkey, who is himself from a tribal community, told TOI. The championship will be held across three states – Odisha, Jhakhand and Chattisgarh – from December 10, and will be inaugurated by Vice-president Hamid Ansari. It will involve approximately 30,000 youths and 1750 teams.
“We are trying to make the youth understand that there is another world which offers them a job, security, financial stability and a much better social life,” Tirkey said, adding that the state has several hockey academies and the one in Panposh has produced so many world-class players. Tirkey said that focussing on rural hockey could open career options in the region and impact youths directly. “It’s a Herculean task for us but we are making sincere effort and hopefully the situation will change soon,” he said.