Hockey now a part of Odia pride & emotion: Dilip Tirkey
As the FIH World Cup enters its next stage, Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey speaks to The Telegraph about the various aspects of the game, which includes reviving the Hockey India league, remuneration of players, top contenders for the World Cup and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s support for the game.
Q: You were a world-class player and now you are the Hockey India president. How do you see the transition?
A: As a player, I got a number of opportunities to play for the country at the national level both as a player and captain. Now, for the first time, a player has occupied the highest position in Hockey India. I feel proud of it. God has given me a chance to serve the cause of hockey as an administrator.
Q: Don’t you think the role of an administrator is more challenging, tough and complicated too?
A: Challenges are there in every field and you need to address them. When I was playing for India, there were challenges and many other complicated issues cropped up. I handled the issues calmly. Yes, the president’s role is a challenging one but I would rise to the occasion. Besides, there is a system in each organisation and you are a part of that. You need to ensure that the system is working efficiently and working for a better cause with proper planning.
Q: How do you feel about Odisha organising the World Cup for the second consecutive time?
A: It’s a great feeling. It has been possible because of our chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who has backed the game with a big heart, built infrastructure and sponsored both the men’s and women’s teams of the country till 2033. He has been able to send a message that he is backing the players. The result was visible when India won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, ending decades of medal drought.
Q: But do you think after Naveen, Indian hockey will get the same support?
A: The chief minister has set the momentum for the game. He has been able to connect hockey to the emotions of each Odia person. That is most important. It’s because of hockey that people across the globe are talking about Odisha. Hockey is now associated with Odia pride.
Q: Being the president of Hockey India, what would be your immediate focus to popularise hockey?
A: The first task for me is to revive the Hockey India League, which was last played in 2017. Steps will be taken to popularise hockey at the school and college levels. We will see how more boys and girls can take up the game between the age of 14 and 16. We also want to promote women’s participation in this beautiful game.
Q: In cricket, players are earning a lot. Don’t you think hockey players should get more money?
A: Cricket is an industry. Hockey is picking up momentum. You need the support of others, including industries, to promote the game. Only the government cannot do this. Now a player gets Rs 50,000 and a support staff member gets Rs 25,000 for every win that the Indian team registers. Once we earn more money, we will be able to give more money to the players. No doubt about it.
Q: You retired from hockey in 2009. The hockey during your time and now — what’s the difference?
A: Many rules have changed. The game has become faster, but the players are also getting rest during the match. You need to stay 100 per cent fit.
Q: Who are the top contenders for the title in this World Cup?
A: Being an Indian, my heart beats for India. I will certainly hope India go to the final. As the matches are on, I should not talk much about this. But Belgium, Australia and Germany are the top contenders. It’s too difficult to predict.