A long ride through a narrow, bumpy road that plays hide and seek with the river Sankh till it meets another called the Koyel to form the Brahmani, is where India’s national sport, hockey, is not just a way of life — it is a means to an end.
The Orissa government’s Panposh Sports Hostel, with its newly re-laid synthetic turf and three adjacent grass surfaces, breeds dreams, makes careers, sometimes stars, and eventually sustains many families in the district.
On the township’s other side, marked by impeccably manicured boulevards and a slightly different philosophy, nest similar dreams. Here, is the SAIL Hockey Academy.
While the hostel believes in channelling the inherent athleticism of the local tribals, at the academy, trials are conducted on the recommendations of different state associations and cadets are chosen on parameters from physique to specific skills.
For the hostel spotters, led by chief coach KC Chaudhary and coach-in-charge Bijoy Kumar Lakra, Sunday’s post-church inter-village tournaments — with prizes as high as a khasi (goat) to as low as nodia (a bunch of coconuts) or a kukuda (chicken) — are perfect hunting grounds. “We pick our women cadets on physical fitness because they don’t play these matches,” says Amulya Nanda Bihari, the women’s team coach.