Bhubaneswar: With a week to go for the first-ever Indian Super League (ISL) match between Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC, the spotlight is once again on Bhubaneswar. Of late, the city has turned host to some of the most important sporting extravaganzas, earning the sobriquet of ‘Sports Capital of India,’ from none other than President of Indian Olympic Association Narinder Dhruv Batra.
“Like New Delhi is the capital of India, Mumbai is the Financial Capital of India, Bhubaneswar has become the Sports Capital,” Batra, also President of FiH, said at an event in New Delhi earlier this week.
Though Odisha has hosted national-level sports events in the past, the first major international tournament (barring cricket) was held in 2014 in the form of the Hockey Champions Trophy. The successful hosting of the event encouraged the state government, which gave the much-needed impetus to sports sector by hosting the Asian Athletics Championships last year within a record 90-day period after neighbouring state Jharkhand backed out.
With successful management and crowd factor playing positive, Odisha added another feather in its cap by hosting the prestigious World Hockey League Finals in December 2017.
“Odisha has been constantly pushing itself to promote sports. In fact, we have also crossed the state boundaries and decided to sponsor the India national men’s and women’s hockey team for five years. This is a first-of-its-kind initiative which has been received very well,” said Odisha’s secretary, sports, Vishal Dev.
The sudden boost is a result of several innovative schemes like the Tribal Sports Meet, which the State Government introduced recently.
For the former players from the State, a boost for sports has not only given them hope, but has also brought back memories of past laurels.
“I am waiting for the day when the India team would wear this jersey and walk on the field during World Cup hockey,” said former India hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, who rues the fact that he could never play an international match in Bhubaneswar.
The crowd factor, the main reason behind such important events, will be put to testwhen the ISL football match is played on February 25. While hockey and athletics have got the much-required cheer from the people, ISL would reveal how well Odisha can keep its date with football.