Recent remarks of Orissa Hockey Association (OHA) Secretary criticising the performance of state captain and Olympian Dilip Tirkey were "unfortunate" and would not serve the interest of the game, Orissa Sports Minister Debasis Nayak said on Thursday.
"Padmashree Dilip Tirkey is not only pride of Orissa but the nation. One should not have commented on the performance of such a player, who had led the Indian hockey team for years," said Nayak.
"We should encourage our players, we should take care of them and rectify their mistakes if any for the interest of the game," he said when asked about his reaction to the ongoing controversy resulting in widespread reactions from the sportsmen and hockey lovers to OHA's comment.
OHA Secretary Pratap Satpathy held Tirkey responsible for the defeat of Orissa Steelers in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) played recently at Chandigarh. Similarly, the Joint Secretary of the OHA, Pranab Patnaik told newspersons at Cuttack that "Dilip was included in the national team on the rcommendation of Satpathy."
Referring to the demand of the hockey players and fans that the OHA headquarters be shifted to Rourkela from Cuttack, Nayak said the "demand is genuine".
"We are proud of hockey players of Sundargarh. Because of Sundargarh many players are included in the national teams, both men and women hockey," he said adding, "We should protect their interst and encourage them for better development of hockey."
The Hockey Association should concentrate on Sundargarh by visiting villages and encouraging the game, the Sports Minister said.
Hockey players led by Olympian Michel Kindo joined a rally here yesterday condemning the comment of OHA and in a memorandum addressed to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demanded de-recognition of OHA and an unconditional apology from OHA Secretary Satpathy for his comment on Tirkey.