Liberal Opinion: FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023: My Odisha Diary

The 17-day 44-match hockey extravaganza has been a big draw.Olympians, internationals, coaches, umpires, technical officials, fans and lovers of the sport besides upcoming players have all descended on co-host cities of Bhubaneswar and Rourkela,

Interestingly, a number of former coaches of Indian teams, both Indian and foreigner, are here. They include Roeland Oltmans, who was the Chief Coach of Indian Team in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and later remained associated with Pakistan hockey team for a brief period of time, and is often seen in company of other coaches and Hockey India officials.

Former Indian coach of the 2018 World Cup team, Harendfra Singh, who is currently training the US hockey teams,also arrived here a couple of days ago. Vasudev Bhaskaran, captain of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games gold medallist Indian hockey team, has been watching all the matches from the VIP enclosure reserved for Olympians and former internationals.

Rajinder Singh, who was among top scorers in the 1981-82 World Cup in Bombay and also in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, and trained Indian national team during the Presidentship of KPS Gill, travelled all the way from his present home town in Mohali to the temples city to watch the top 16 teams of the world play in Odisha.

These Indian coaches apart, Sigfried Aikman, who helped Japan win its maiden Asian Games gold in Jakarta four years ago, is often seen in animated discussions with other fellow coaches and FIH officials.

Disappointed at the failure of India in not making the last eight grade, Richard Charlesworth, one of the most accomplished sportsmen, was also seen in the Indian camp. He was also present at one of the briefings by the Indian team officials after their shock loss to New Zealand.

Another stalwart in demand has been one of the world’s best drag flickers of the 90s, Jan Floris Bovelander. Bovelander was the man of the 1990 World Cup in Lahore.

There are others, who, too, are enjoying hockey as well exploring possibilities of new coaching assignments.

Then there is a great star of yesteryears. Avtar Singh Sohal, who enjoys the rare distinction of captaining a national team in three Olympic Games and a World Cup,, is also here. Avtar was one of top scorers in the 1973 World Cup in Amstelveen. He is now active with the Nairobi based Sikh Union and is the spirit behind organising an international tournament at the renovated Sikh Union Club from April 17 to 22 this year.

Another O(lympian of Punjabi origin, Avtar Singh Bhurji, however, had to cut short his visit because of his ailing wife back home in England. Avtar Bhurji played for Uganda in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Now, he is a keen hockey photographer-turned journalist.

Interestingly, some of the top European teams have accompanying parents and other family members of current teams. They include father of captain of the Netherlands team, Thiery Brinkman, and father of Alex Hendricks,one of world’s deadliest flickers from Belgium, who unfortunately has to sit out after the group matches because of a torn ligament in one of his knees.

Besides these stars, both Andhra Pradesh and Bengal, brought junior girls teams, to watch some of the games as a part of their training and appreciation of the changing techniques in the sport. They watched quarter-final games.

Though no team from Punjab, Haryana or Chandigarh has come to witness the World Cup games, a number of hockey officials, followers and coaches are here to watch present day stars in action.Intriguingly, many others who wanted to come and watch India play in quarter finals and onwards, made the last minute cancellations after the home team’s failure to clear the p[re quarter-final hurdle.

(Prabhjo(Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience of 14 years with Reuters News and 30 years with The Tribune Group, covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows.)