Think hockey in Odisha and one instantly remembers the heroes that Sundergarh district has produced! Be it Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey or Prabodh Tirkey, all of them have brought laurels for the state and the nation at international level and made us proud.
From the same land of hockey champions, comes Dipsan Tirkey, a new addition to the list, who at a young age of 18, already has the experience of captaining Indian junior hockey team for EurAsia Cup and England tour. This promising defender is also a known name in the Hockey Indian League playing for ‘Kalinga Lancers’. Hailing from Saunamara village, which is also the village of Dilip Tirkey, this young player has limitless potential to exhibit.
My City Links caught up in an intense conversation with Dipsan as he discussed about his experiences, upcoming projects and future plans. Excerpts from the interview.
Tell us a little about your journey.
My journey started in 2009 at the age of 11 years when I had appeared in the trials and eventually got selected for getting proper training for hockey that was sponsored by the state government. All credit goes to my family members as they encouraged me by taking me for the trials and have supported me throughout my journey. I have captained the junior Indian hockey team for the EurAsia Cup held in Russia and the England tour for six matches against England and Scotland. But I feel that I am just a beginner and there still is a long way to go.
What was the reason for choosing hockey over other sports and games?
The most played sport in the place where I hail from is hockey. Sundergarh is famous for producing hockey players of international repute. The environment here is such that one gets attracted towards hockey. From my childhood I have seen that everybody liked to play hockey and it has always remained a popular sport in our area. Hockey tournaments keep taking place frequently all around the district. Therefore, I too was naturally inclined towards the sport. That apart, my family was very supportive from the beginning and encouraged me to take it up as a career.
Having captained the Indian junior hockey team in the international level which is a huge responsibility, what was your experience about it?
Actually, in hockey, the responsibility is not only on the captain, but on each member of the team as it is a group thing. As I was captaining for the first time then, the senior players in the group helped me take major decisions. Even the coach played a very important role. Everyone did their part well, so there was no need to advice anyone about anything. So, the experience of captainship was really good and I look forward to it in the coming days as well.
Who is your inspiration?
Dilip Tirkey is my idol and I look up to him. I have always admired his style of playing the game and like the way he hits the ball.
Hockey, being the national game of the country, do you think it is getting enough importance?
In the recent times, hockey is being given a lot of focus and importance as compared to the past. People are getting to know more about hockey nowadays and its scope is rising with every passing day. Social media and hockey premier leagues have made hockey even more popular among the masses. Also, the national and international hockey teams are performing very well, subsequently grabbing the headlines, thereby drawing everyone’s attention. People are slowly, but steadily realising the power this game has and I hope this importance remains intact in the times to come.
What can be done to attract more youngsters towards hockey?
It is unfortunate that youth today are more inclined towards cricket and other sports and are unaware of the benefits of hockey. They do not even get enough exposure to play the game. Keeping in mind that hockey is the national sport of India, the government should instruct schools and other educational institutions to include hockey in their sports curriculum. Besides, hockey camps should also be organised to train the budding talents who are eager to play hockey and proper accessories should be given to them. Such steps will initiate the spark within the youth to take up hockey as their career, thus making it more popular in the country.
How do you maintain your fitness regime?
A proper diet is very essential for a sportsperson. Generally, in sports hostels where most of the sportspersons live, the diet is normal and manageable. But it should be more nutritious and healthy because a sportsperson needs a balanced diet to give his best performance. The diet should include nutrient dense carbohydrate and protein rich meals along with rice, bread, vegetables, cereals, fruits, dairy products, meat and other non-vegetarian products.
How did it feel receiving a citation at the prestigious Ekalabya Award ceremony this year?
The citation was given to me to recognise my contribution to hockey and I was felicitated with a cash award of Rs. 50,000 along with a certificate of achievement. This acknowledgement means a lot to me and I take it as an encouragement. This award has boosted my interest in the game and given me another opportunity to prove myself.
Tell us about your future plans.
Presently, my aim is to establish a prominent place in the senior Indian hockey team by 2017. I am very much willing to play for India in the senior team and make my country as well as the state proud. That apart, I have a dream to play for India in the next Olympic games to be held in 2020.