ROURKELA: Hockey India and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have often had in recent times Indian Hockey League (HIL) on the discussion table. The HIL, which is seen as the reason for India’s quality supply chain and subsequent success at the 2016 Junior Men’s World Cup and Tokyo Olympics, was on the back burner after 2017. The effort now is first to rekindle interest from past and new investors and find a window for HIL that allows the availability of international stars without compromising Pro League matches. But Odisha could once again have a head start.
David Johnthe former High Performance Director of Hockey India, was appointed Director of Hockey for Odisha by the state government in April 2022. He now leads the development of the sport in the region, and a hockey league in the region is at the heart of the Australian projects.
Not based on the franchise model like the HIL or having international appeal, John’s idea is still not something the country is used to – a club culture. The idea is to improve the quality of match-ready players in the region who can then represent India.
“My goal is to have strong club competition in this area,” said John, who entered the State Sports Inn in panposhas the girls finished their training under BJ Cariappawho has been delegated here as a coach for the past two months.

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“India doesn’t have a strong club system. The problem for Indian (domestic) players is that they don’t play enough matches, competitive matches. They have to wait for the national championships or Khelo India as Phone.”
Cariappa played the translator as John addressed the girls and boys stationed at the hostel established in 1985.
His 15 minute conversation was both reassuring and stimulating. Challenge as the weeding process at the hostel has been delayed due to Covid and non interpreters may soon be separated from others. And reassured probably because of what John knew the children would say when given the floor for questions and suggestions.
Rs 500 is what the children in the hostel receive as an allowance. They are not happy with it. Sitting on the ground, answering John in low voices, everyone said that was not enough. On a fair note, their kits, food, housing, and academics are taken care of by the state-run hostel. They even complained that they don’t have a physiotherapist or a physiotherapy room in the hostel.

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This, John said, will soon be resolved with a physiotherapist stationed at the hostel after the World Cup and the trainees moving to the new state-of-the-art Birsa Munda hockey stadium, with the exception of beginners.
He did not comment on the stipend part, but added that once the planned league gets stronger, and therefore the clubs, children can be paid to play for their clubs.
“There are 24 new territories… most of them are in the Sundargarh region, 19 I think, excluding the two here in Panposh. Each territory will become a club in itself. These players will be released the weekend to actually go back and play for their clubs because every strong country in the world has a strong club system,” John said.
“So it can give us 18 teams and we can have 17 week home and away series plus finals. I as a club would invite players from other states to come and join. Jharkhand is close, Bihar n is not Over the next 3 to 5 years it will become a Odisha Hockey League, strong club competition. If clubs get strong like they do in other countries, then they (players) can get paid to play for their club,” he explained.
“So from September to March we will have home and away club competitions for the sub-junior, junior and senior age groups every weekend.”
John’s plan looks like a grassroots revolution in Indian hockey. But the success of this will depend on an honest execution.


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