Odisha govt wins AHF award for best hockey infrastructure

Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela

NEW DELHI: The Odisha state Government has won the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) Award for Best Hockey Infrastructure during the AHF Congress held in Mungyeong, Korea on Friday. 

The award was presented for the incredible efforts by the state government to build the world's largest-seated Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, which also houses an Olympic-style Hockey Village.  

The picturesque stadium, named after Indian freedom fighter Birsa Munda, is built over 50 acres of land inside the Biju Patnaik University of Technology campus in the hockey belt of Odisha. It was built in record time of 15 months and boasts of two FIH approved hockey turfs apart from gymnasiums, recovery centre and Hockey Village that houses over 200 rooms.

With a seating capacity of 20,111 bucket seats, the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium remained sold out throughout the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, with spectators thronging the stadium for India and non-India matches. At the recently-held FIH Hockey Pro League too, where India remained unbeaten against reigning World Champions Germany and Australia, the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium remained house full. 

In other categories, the Indian men and women's hockey teams too were feted with AHF Best Achievement Award respectively for their performances in the year 2022-23. Both teams continue to be the highest ranked Asian teams in the FIH World Ranking with the Indian men ranked no.4 and Indian women ranked no.8 in the world. 

The men's team won the Silver medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, Bronze at the Asia Cup Jakarta 2022 and finished third in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021-22 and currently remain on top of the pool table in the ongoing season of the Hockey Pro League, while the Indian women's hockey team created history by winning a Bronze Medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, followed by a sensational title win at the FIH Nations Cup in Valencia, Spain, which was a qualifying event for the Hockey Pro League 2023-24. 

The iconic former India captain Ajit Pal Singh, who successfully led the Indian men's team to World Cup victory in 1975 held in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia, was awarded with the AHF Ashwini Award for his outstanding achievements in the sport. The 75-year-old legend from Sansarpur village in Punjab also has to his credit two Olympic Bronze Medals from 1968 Mexico City Olympics and 1972 Munich Olympics. Apart from the World Cup Gold, he has won a Silver in the 1973 Amsterdam World Cup and a Bronze medal in the 1971 Barcelona World Cup.

Congratulating Odisha state government as well as Indian men and women's Hockey teams and Ajit Pal Singh, Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey said, "It is indeed a momentous occasion for us with Asian Hockey Federation recognising the efforts of Odisha state government who played a major role in successfully hosting the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela. The Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium is a precious gift to world hockey by the visionary Hon'ble Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik. On behalf of Hockey India, I extend my deepest gratitude and also congratulate the entire work force of Odisha state government who tirelessly worked towards completing the construction of the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in record time of 15 months. The AHF Best Hockey Infrastructure Award is a befitting honour for the state's efforts." 

"I also congratulate the Indian men and women's hockey team on winning the AHF Best Achievement Award respectively. There is tremendous potential in both the teams and I am sure with the continued support of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS), Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Odisha state government, both the teams will continue to achieve desirable results in world hockey. I am also delighted that AHF recognised former Indian captain Ajit Pal Singh, with the AHF Ashwini Award for his outstanding achievements in the sport. My congratulations to Shri Ajit Pal Singh," added Tirkey. 

HI feted for Men's World Cup 2023 execution 
Hockey India was on Thursday awarded with the Best Organiser Award by the AHF for their exemplary execution of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela as the host nation. 

The quadrennial event featuring 16 teams from across the globe was held in two world-class venues in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. While the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar had previously hosted the FIH Hockey Men's World Cup 2018, the newly-constructed Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela caught the imagination of the hockey fraternity for being the largest-seated hockey stadium in the world. 

Apart from impeccable organization of the on-field action with global standards being met in ensuring best facilities were provided for athletes, the host nation along with the unparalleled support of Odisha state government, hosted numerous fan-engaging events that included a star-studded opening ceremony with performances by Bollywood super stars Ranveer Singh, Disha Patani and international acclaimed K-Pop band Blackswan making the hockey festivities all the more memorable for global hockey fans visiting Odisha.

The tournament mascot Olly was highlighted with Olly's Land, a fan zone created within the two-stadium premises became a mega attraction for thousands of spectators who flocked the stadium to watch top-class hockey and also created awareness about the Olive Ridley Turtles.