Sonamara players playing hockey with bamboo sticks will now play on Astro Turf

Children playing hockey with gusto even without facilities on a dusty ground, pictures of past and present hockey stars and slogans like Chak De India plastered on the surrounding walls. The village which has such a view, it would not be an exaggeration to call it the hockey village of India. About 2,000 tribal families live in Sonamara village in Sundergarh district of Odisha, the heartland of Indian hockey. Every evening around a hundred children can be seen playing hockey on the dusty ground here. Hockey is not a sport for him but a passion and he dreams of becoming the Dilip Tirkey or Amit Rohidas of the future.

Former India captain and current Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, besides Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey and former women’s team captain Subhadra Pradhan, have come from this village, located 100 km from the Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela, the world’s largest hockey ground. These children, who learned hockey by playing with bamboo sticks, will now be able to play on AstroTurf. Artificial pitch will be laid next month in this village which has given many big stars including Dilip Tirkey to Indian hockey.

Tirkey, who played the most 421 international matches for India, said, “When I was young, there was no hockey ground in my village. Wherever there was space, we would have played. But now astro turf is going to be installed in my village.” He said, “I am very happy for the children of my village. I am also proud of my village’s contribution to Indian hockey.” The artificial pitch to be laid here will be filled with sand, which costs less.

Astro-turf for international matches costs around Rs 4 crore but its cost is less. The Odisha government has started the work of laying artificial turf in all the 17 blocks of Sundergarh district. Aman Tirkey, a Class 7 student of a government school, said, “Hockey is our life. It’s in our blood and we play hockey everyday. I also want to grow up and play for India like Dilip Tirkey or Amit Rohidas.

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