Stick to hockey: Odisha to sponsor Indian teams for another 10 years

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Bhubaneswar, Aug 17 (IANS) The Odisha government, which is sponsoring the Indian hockey teams since 2018, will continue its patronage for Indian hockey for another 10 years.

The announcement was made by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here on Tuesday at a special event organised to felicitate Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams for their outstanding performance at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics.

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In recognition of their achievement and their potential to be the top teams in the world, Patnaik announced that Odisha will continue to sponsor Indian hockey teams for another 10 years after the present sponsorship deal ends in 2023.

“We in Odisha are elated that our partnership with Hockey India has led to this great achievement for the country. I believe Odisha and hockey are destined to become synonymous,” Patnaik said.

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“We will continue our partnership with Hockey India. Odisha will support the Indian Hockey teams for 10 more years. This will herald a new era of Indian hockey and bring glory to the nation,” the Chief Minister said at the event.

After 41 years, India won a medal in hockey at the Olympics after the men’s team clinched the bronze in Tokyo on August 5, defeating Germany 5-4 in a thrilling play-off encounter.

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In Tokyo, the women’s hockey team’s dream of securing a maiden Olympic medal remained unfulfilled after they lost 3-4 against Great Britain in the bronze medal play-off match, their best ever performance at the Olympic Games so far.

Patnaik said that the hockey teams made everybody proud with their spirited show in Tokyo.

“It was a deeply emotional moment for India to witness the revival of hockey. For nearly four decades, hockey fans were yearning to see India grab a medal at the Olympics. The way the entire country was glued to the television screens to watch the hockey teams’ matches, it is quite evident that there is something more to hockey than just sports,” Patnaik said.

“In the backdrop of the Covid pandemic, it is remarkable that our teams worked so hard in spite of all the challenges and emerged victorious. At times of such crisis, the teams brought smiles on the faces of crores of Indians. We all should be thankful to our boys and girls,” he further said.

On the occasion, the Chief Minister felicitated both the men’s and women’s teams.

Each player was awarded Rs 10 lakh while each support staff was awarded Rs 5 lakh by the Chief Minister. As a token of appreciation, each team gifted a framed Jersey autographed by the players to Patnaik.

Patnaik also gave away 13 awards. From the men’s team, Harmanpreet Singh won the highest scorer award, goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh won the award for making the maximum number of saves, Nilakanta Sharma won the highest assists award, Rupinder Pal Singh won the award for making the maximum number of tackles, while Harmanpreet and Amit Rohidas shared the award for making the maximum interceptions in the midfield.

From the women’s team, Gurjit Kaur and Vandana Katariya shared the highest scorer scored, Savita Punia won the award for making the maximum number of saves, Rani Rampal and Navneet Kaur shared the highest assists award, Deep Grace Ekka won the award for making the maximum number of defensive tackles, while P. Sushila Chanu won the award for making the maximum number of interceptions in the midfield. Each were awarded Rs 5 lakh.

The President of Indian Olympic Association, Narinder Batra, who has played a key role in the revival of hockey in India, was also felicitated by the Chief Minister on the occasion.

Patnaik also awarded Odisha doctor Bibhu Kalyan Nayak, who was appointed as the first Indian FIH Medical Officer at the Tokyo Olympics, with Rs 5 lakh.

The Odisha Chief Minister also felicitated Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam, Secretary General Rajinder Singh, CEO Elena Norman and the entire Hockey India staff and awarded Rs 50 lakh to the federation.

Women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal said, “The team is very happy to be present here today and we wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the Odisha government for supporting our team. Our team is always made to feel so welcome here that Odisha feels very much like the home of Indian hockey now.”

Men’s team captain Manpreet Singh said, “It feels good to be back here in Odisha, the place we call our home away from home, and now one of the biggest reasons behind our success at the Tokyo Olympics. This bronze medal may have been won by us as players, but in truth, it equally belongs to India — a gift from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaikji whose vision and constant encouragement helped us achieve our dream of winning an Olympic medal after 41 years.”

Narinder Batra thanked Patnaik and the people of Odisha for showing their love and affection for hockey and for helping the teams achieve the Olympic dream for India.

“With your continued support, Indian hockey will look to build on the achievements from the Tokyo Olympics, and continue this steady rise to take Indian hockey back to the elite level where it belongs,” Batra said.

He also thanked the Chief Minister and other dignitaries for their unconditional support to hockey and the national teams.

–IANS

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