CRADLE OF SUCCESS
The Morning Standard|August 30, 2021
“HOCKEY,” Rani Rampal says, “was almost finished in a certain way. But the Odisha government invested so much money as they wanted to bring back the sport.”

The Indian women’s captain is in the middle of explaining the role Odisha played in transforming the country’s fortunes in the sport. That’s when it becomes clear that the upward trajectory of both the men’s and women’s teams largely coincided with the time the state started showing an interest in backing a sport responsible for giving the country each of its first eight Olympic gold.

In a special message, the Odisha CM, Naveen Patnaik, said the sport occupies a special place in the state. “We intend to take forward hockey development in Odisha, through the development of infrastructure and coaching programmes. As we prepare to host the World Cup in 2023, it is our hope and prayer that the team brings home the gold. Nothing will make Odisha and India happier. I believe hockey has a great future in the coming years. India is all set to dominate the game of hockey. Odisha has taken up many sports initiatives for other disciplines as well, like football, athletics, weightlifting etc. We are giving a major boost to infrastructure and grassroots programmes. The youth of our country needs to get into sports. The investment that we are making in sports is the investment we are making for our youth and hence, for the future of our society and country.”

R Vineel Krishna, commissioner and secretary, sports and youth services, Odisha, elaborated a bit on the state’s association not just with hockey but sports like rugby. In a conversation with TNIE Editorial Director, Prabhu Chawla, and senior journalists, Kaveree Bamzai and Sharda Ugra on E-Expressions, a virtual thought platform from The New Indian Express, Rampal, men’s team captain, Manpreet Singh and Krishna get intimate about Odisha’s role in the past, present and future of sport there. Excerpts:

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