The temple city of Bhubaneswar is now in the news for mostly the right reasons. It has successfully hosted the latest and probably the final edition of the FIH Hockey World League Final at the Kalinga Stadium and now, is all set to host the 16 teams from all around the world for the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup, which shall be conducted from 28th November onwards, next year.
However, what is not transpiring on the hockey fans is how Bhubaneswar, which was only famous as a historical city and the capital of the state of Odisha, is now turning out to be the new hockey nursery for India and can probably contribute in its own way to ending the drought of a podium finish at both the FIH Hockey World Cup and the Summer Olympics. It has been more than three decades since India last climbed up the podium, either as a simple medallist or as the invincible champions.
But why Bhubaneswar is emerging as the new hockey nursery of India? That's because, among all other cities, it is Bhubaneswar, that has picked up the newer formats of field hockey on the fastest note. It was Bhubaneswar who became one of the first cities in India to lay down a completely state-of-the-art blue astroturf.
It was Bhubaneswar that successfully hosted several matches of the Hockey India League, since its inception in 2014. As of now, the stadium is the home ground to both Hockey Odisha, that participates in the national level hockey championships and the Kalinga Lancers, the Odisha based team of the Hockey India League.
Not only that, Bhubaneswar is also famous for successfully hosting the FIH Men's Hockey Champions Trophy, where India had missed the podium by a whisker, losing to Australia by 1-2. Now the multi-purpose stadium is awaiting the 16 teams from around the world that will qualify the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup.
The X-factor that is associated with Bhubaneswar's hockey dreams is also the presence of the spectators in the stadium. To be truthful, very few people in India are enthusiastic about the field hockey and it seems that a lion's share of such fans comprises the denizens of Odisha, who come to watch the game in large numbers, be it the match of Hockey India League or an Indian match in a major tournament like the Hockey World League or the Hockey Champions Trophy.
The dedication of Bhubaneswar to hockey can be proved from the point that even when it was raining cats and dogs during the semifinals of the FIH Hockey World League Finals 2017 between India and Argentina, not one spectator moved an inch and they continued to support the Indian team, even after they lost to the current Olympic champions by a slender margin of 0-1. Imagine their presence if India performs on the same level as the junior colts did in the FIH Men's Junior Hockey World Cup 2016.
While it would be too early to make out if India performs well at the upcoming World Cup or not, we know one thing for sure, the support that the citizens of Bhubaneswar are giving to hockey is immense and can work wonders for the senior team, which is regaining its position as an Asian powerhouse and is among the top six teams of the world as of now.
If the support also gives India their first major FIH tournament in years, Bhubaneswar's name will be immortalized in the golden history of field hockey in India as the city which revived the spirits of Indian hockey. We seriously hope it does!