Not so long ago, Gwalior was considered to be the hockey nursery of India, but in the last couple of years, the title has been snatched away from Gwalior by Bhubaneshwar. Bhubaneshwar is historically known as the temple city of India, but the city has come a long way in becoming the hockey epicentre of India. From successfully hosting the first and perhaps the final edition of the FIH Hockey World League Final to being chosen as the hosts of the upcoming FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup, the city has accepted the sport and shown the fondness for it.
So, how the city, which was not known to be a hockey bastion, turned into one?
Ready to accept the new formats
Bhubaneswar has picked up the newer formats of field hockey quickly and better than any other city in the country. It was this city in Odisha which became one of the first to lay down a completely state-of-the-art blue astroturf. And that, of course, drew attention and crowds to the Kalinga Stadium.
Prior experience of hosting the world cup
Bhubaneswar successfully hosted several matches of the Hockey India League (involving overseas players), since its inception in 2014. Currently, the stadium is the home ground for both Hockey Odisha that participates in the national level hockey championships and the Kalinga Lancers — the Odisha based team of the Hockey India League. It also successfully hosted the FIH Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy where India had missed the podium by a whisker, losing to Australia by 1-2. So yes, experience counts.
This is the prime reason why Bhubaneshwar has emerged as the epicentre of World Hockey. We feel the support of local fans and their presence at the stadium has what made the sport trend again in India. Over the past decade, cricket stole all the limelight but now it seems India is again accepting hockey as the second sport of the country after cricket.
2018 could be a big year for Indian Hockey as they get ready to host the world cup at the Kalinga Stadium. With all eyes on India, will they be able to live up to the expectations?