NEW DELHI: The Modi Government’s efforts to encourage sports, particularly its focus on the ‘forgotten’ national sport hockey, is getting manifested in the hosting of the 2023 FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in the country for the second time in a row.
It is the first time in the history of this quadrennial event that the International Hockey Federation has repeated Odisha, in India, as the venue of the 16-nation tournament, being played from January 13 to 29.
The majestic Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela, one of the venues where the matches are being played, is the toast of the nation. The 20,000- plus capacity stadium is the largest hockey stadium in the world in terms of spectator-seating. The stadium, built at a cost of Rs 260 crore, showcases India’s strength as a global power in sports infrastructure. It was commissioned on January 5 this year.
Out of the total 44 matches in the ongoing World Cup, 20 will be played at the Birsa Munda Stadium, while the rest 22 will be hosted at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar.
India’s strong start
Coming to the action on the field, hosts India, who last won the World Cup in 1975, got off to a strong start when they beat Spain 2-0 in their opening match on January 13. Placed in Pool D along with England, Spain and Wales, India needs to finish among the top two if it has to qualify for the knockout stage.
Amit Rohidas, the Vice-Captain of the team, is easily the pick of the Indian players. The 29-year-old defender, who hails from Sundergarh, scored India’s opening goal against England and has been the mainstay of the Indian defence.
Among the other stars is the current Indian captain Harmanpreet Singh. The 27-year-old from Amritsar is one of the most versatile players in the world, scoring more than 100 goals despite being a defender. He has the rare distinction of being named the FIH Player of the Year Award for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons.
Midfielder Hardik Singh is another key player for the hosts. The 24-year-old from Jalandhar has been the cynosure of all eyes and scored the second goal against Spain. Unfortunately he suffered a hamstring injury in the match against England and that could see him miss a couple of matches. Veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ with his stunning saves and uncanny anticipation.
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