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Hockey heartland in turmoil

OHA Secretary Pratap Satpathy was reported to have said that Tirkey was "responsible" for the team's defeat in the PHL semi-finals.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2008 20:03 IST

Sundargarh, the tribal district of Orissa and known as the hockey heartland, is in turmoil with the entire fraternity of the sport up in arms against the state association.

Players including Olympian Michael Kindo, hockey lovers, local political leaders and leading citizens, carrying hockey sticks in hand, took to the streets here and in Sundargarh town recently condemning the remark of an Orissa Hockey Association (OHA) official against former India captain Dilip Tirkey following the failure of Orissa Steelers to retain the prestigious Premier Hockey League (PHL) title.

Orissa Steelers who had won the last edition of PHL lost to Bangalore Hi-Fliers in the semi-finals (2-3) at Chandigarh earlier this month.

OHA Secretary Pratap Satpathy was reported to have said that Tirkey was "responsible" for the team's defeat in the PHL semi-finals.

The protestors submitted a memorandum to a senior government official demanding that Satpathy must apologise for his remarks on the seasoned defender.

Tirkey has also expressed his surprise over Satpathy's outburst, saying "I'm distraught, hurt and humiliated".

"The infighting within the OHA was responsible for the team's poor showing. If these things continue, we have to think of alternatives", Tirkey said, which many interpreted as the possibility of launching a parallel association.

Pointing out that he was not fit and was hesitant to join the Orissa Steelers team, Tirkey said the coach and physio of the national team advised him to play while taking proper breaks as his presence would boost the team's morale.

Tirkey said he agreed but did not play initially where the team lost some matches. "I played in the remaining four matches out of which we won three. I gave my best but have ended up getting this".

"I was the captain, but no one cared to seek my view when the team was picked."

The situation hotted up when another OHA official remarked at a news conference at Cuttack that Tirkey should not forget that it was because of Satpathy's support his career in the national team had flowered.

Current Indian captain Prabodh Tirkey, also from Sundargarh, has thrown his weight behind Dilip while questioning the role of the OHA for the development of the game in the state.

Significantly, sportspersons, common public and political leaders have decided to send a delegation to Delhi to meet the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) top brass and demand de-recognition of the OHA and removal of Satpathy.

They will also plead for shifting of the OHA headquarters from Cuttack to either Rourkela or Sundargarh in the "greater interest" of hockey in Orissa, Raj Kishore Sarangi, President of the Sundargarh District Congress Committee, said.

The memorandum said that since Sundargarh had emerged as the state's cradle of hockey with several players from the district - like Dilip Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey, Roshan Minz and William Xalxo - playing in the Indian team and there was little justification for the OHA headquarters to be based at Cuttack.

It should be shifted to either Rourkela or Sundargarh as Rourkela has two astro-turfs and another one is coming up at Sundargarh, they said.

Sundargarh district has produced a number of national and international players. Two academies -- Panposh Hockey Sports hostel and SAIL Hockey Academy -- are continuously breeding quality players from the district.

Former junior India captain Peter Tirkey said the OHA serves no purpose in Cuttack and is being run by Satpathy for his own gains.

"Satpathy has not made any contribution to the game and has been using the OHA for his political gain," Peter said.

When the matter was brought to the notice of Orissa Sports Minister Debasis Nayak, he said, "the comment on Dilip Tirkey is really unfortunate. He is not only the pride of the state but the nation as well. He has brought name and fame for the state."

Referring to the demand for shifting of the OHA headquarters to Rourkela, Nayak said, "it is quite justified."