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Wait for international hockey continues at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium

Stadium deprived of international tournaments for almost a decade

dhyan chand.ki

In a few days, Odisha will be the cynosure of international hockey, with the sport's top teams battling it out for the coveted World Cup trophy.

However, the wait to host a top-flight hockey tournament will continue for the stadium named after the country's greatest player. Once called the 'temple of Indian hockey', the iconic Major Dhyan Chand National stadium here has been deprived of international tournaments for almost a decade now.

It is the same ground where India recorded some of its most famous wins over arch-rivals Pakistan, like in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the men's World Cup in the same year, when each and every move towards the goal had been appreciated by over 17,000 spectators.

Besides the joy of winning, the stadium also experienced heartbreaking defeat by Pakistan in the 1982 Asian Games.

The stadium, gifted to Delhi by the Maharaja of Bhavnagar in 1933 (earlier called Irwin Amphitheatre), was one of the venues during the inaugural Asian Games in 1951.

This was also the venue where India was thrashed 8-0 by a formidable Australian team in the final of the 2010 CWG final.

The last international match played here was during the 2014 Hero World League final. After that India organised the 2018 senior men's World Cup and the 2014 Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar, while the 2016 Junior World Cup was awarded to Lucknow.

The stadium in the national capital also did not get to host the FIH Pro League matches.

Lack of interest from then hockey administration in Delhi and Odisha's enthusiasm and love for the sport has made Bhubaneswar the new hockey hub, while the national camps are being organised at SAI centre, Bangalore.

The fact is that the iconic stadium in the capital is not going to host international hockey in the near future.

Appreciating Odisha's contribution to Indian hockey, former national coach and ex-administrator of MDC national stadium Ajay Kumar Bansal said that it is "high time that international hockey is decentralised."

"The aura of the national stadium is different. I remember watching the 1982 Asian Games final between India and Pakistan here. We especially came from Patiala where I was pursuing a coaching diploma course. I still remember every single moment and atmosphere during that game," Bansal told PTI.

"I was associated with the stadium during 2010 World Cup and I have seen the buzz for hockey. That was the golden period, but after that, this stadium has been largely neglected," he added.

"Indian Hockey will be indebted to Odisha for whatever it has done. They deserve to host the World Cup, but we can have bilateral series or test matches here to keep hockey alive."

There is a full-fledged centre of excellence for hockey in the premises, and a few school and college kids also visit the venue to avail SAI's 'come and play' scheme, but they also feel the need to watch international hockey.

"I have been practising here for the last eight years but could only watch one international match. If international matches are held on a regular basis here, it will encourage more kids to pick up the stick," he said.

Despite top-notch facilities, astro turf, well-maintained pitches, decent capacity and ideal location, the stadium, and the forlornly statue of Major Dhyan Chand at its entry, are still waiting to host international teams.

- PTI.


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