Odisha is in a festive mood. The eastern state hasn’t just become India’s but the world’s centre of hockey as it hosts its second successive World Cup, having staged several other top-tier tournaments.
The state boasts of two state-of-the-art stadiums, in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, a former India skipper, hails from Odisha. Two medallists from the Tokyo Olympics – Amit Rohidas and Birendra Lakra – are also from the coastal state. Amidst all this celebration is an unsung hero, one who pioneered the hockey revolution in the state.
A few kilometres from Odisha’s new sporting jewel, the 21,800-seater Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium where the world’s best players feature in the World Cup, Peter Tirkey is busy guiding his trainees at the SAIL Hockey Academy.
Tirkey was the first hockey player from Odisha to represent India, as full back in the side that played in the 1982 Junior Hockey World Cup – the second edition of the tournament – in Kuala Lumpur. “I am the first player from Odisha to play for India. Dilip was the second, but first for India senior,” says the 60-year-old.
Hailing from Rasrajpur village in the tribal Sundergarh district, Tirkey’s side finished fifth in the Malaysian capital where West Germany won the World Cup.
“Back then we had never played on artificial turf. Just before leaving for the World Cup, we went to New Delhi to train and get a feel of the artificial turf that had been newly laid at the National Stadium. It was the first artificial pitch in India and was laid just before the 1982 Asian Games,” Tirkey says.
“At the Junior World Cup, we had a big problem. Because of the unfamiliarity with the pitch, we took two matches to just get used to it as we used to play on grass. We didn’t understand the speed of the ball, how the pitch behaved after it was watered, how the ball was stopped.”
Tirkey was also part of the senior national camp from 1981 to 1984 but never made the cut for the senior Indian team. “I was very close to playing for India seniors at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. I was sure I would be selected but unfortunately, wasn’t,” says Tirkey, who still regrets not making the cut for the senior team.
Tirkey was heartbroken and never returned to the national camp after that despite being called up multiple times. He decided he would only represent Odisha, for whom he played till 1991.
Though hockey was hugely popular in the country when Tirkey was growing up, it was nothing compared to the craze for the sport in Odisha, especially Sundergarh district. Tirkey was born into a family of farmers, the eldest of nine children. It was in his school years that he started playing. He fashioned a stick out of bamboo as his family couldn’t afford a proper one.
He dropped out of school after Class 10 to find work and support his family, but he was already bitten by the hockey bug having guided his school team to the final of a couple of inter-school tournaments. Before he knew, he was in the state sub-junior team and then made the cut for the juniors.
“I played two junior nationals without owning a stick. Back then a stick cost ₹18, which was a lot. I could not afford it. I used to borrow sticks to play at the nationals,” says Tirkey, who has produced 11 India internationals as a coach – senior and junior – including Olympic bronze medallist Birendra Lakra.
Tirkey played his first senior nationals in 1981 and started travelling around the country. He played for Odisha at the domestic level before being selected to the junior India team. He joined Indian conglomerate Larsen & Toubro in 1980 and worked there for seven years before joining SAIL’s Rourkela Steel Plant in 1988.
In 1992, when SAIL started a hockey academy, he joined its coaching staff. He was part of it until retirement on December 31. He is likely to get an extension.
“The great Michael Kindo (1975 World Cup-winner) who died recently was here and recruitment for sports was taking place. He asked me to join saying he wanted to boost hockey in the area, organise local tournaments, etc., which is when I started coaching,” says Tirkey. “When Kindo left, one of my students joined me and both of us have been the coaches since.”
Tirkey has been taking his wards to watch World Cup matches at the grand stadium in Rourkela. “They are learning a lot, watching top-class action unfold in front of their eyes,” he concludes.
Leading Mexico players snub Davis Cup tie over differences with federation | Tennis News
Mexico’s leading tennis players have decided not to play in next week’s Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against Taiwan due to differences with the Mexican Tennis Federation (FMT).
Led by Santiago Gonzalez, Alejandro Hernandez and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela, the players said they will not take part in the Feb. 4-5 Group I playoff tie in Metepec, State of Mexico.
“After a difficult deliberation, we have not reached a positive conclusion, so we have decided not to participate in the upcoming series against the Chinese Taipei team,” said the players’ statement, published on social media on Monday.
“The lack of communication, lack of planning and lack of interest show that the situation has not been handled in the right way and that personal interests have taken precedence over sporting ones.
“It is sad that the FMT does not have the minimum standards in dealing and planning with the best national representatives.”
The players said they had already informed the federation of their reasons for not participating in the Davis Cup tie.
The statement was also signed by players Ernesto Escobedo, Lucas Gomez, Hans Hach, Gerardo Lopez, and Manuel Sanchez.
The FMT was not immediately available to comment.
West Ham set up Man United tie by beating Derby | Football News
West Ham United eased into the FA Cup fifth round with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to third-tier Derby County on Monday to set up a meeting with Manchester United.
Derby, fourth in League One, went into the match on the back of 14 matches unbeaten in all competitions but were quickly overrun by the Premier League side, who took the lead in the 10th minute with a close-range volley from Jarrod Bowen.
Bowen went 12 matches without a goal before netting twice against Everton last week and now has three in his last two games.
The forward then crossed for striker Michail Antonio to head in a second goal five minutes after the interval to break his own goal drought stretching back to November.
David Moyes’ side saw out the victory without conceding many chances, recording back-to-back wins for the first time since October, and Bowen said he hoped the win would boost his side, who are 16th in the table, one point above the relegation zone.
“Two wins on the bounce is good for us it’s all about results and momentum and we can use this as a real springboard,” he said.
Midfielder Pablo Fornals added: “Everyone knows it hasn’t been an easy season so every game we can win gives us massive confidence.
“We work hard every day in training to get a chance and then you have to take it. That’s what the players tried to do tonight.”
Valencia sacks coach Gennaro Gattuso for poor results | Football News
Spanish club Valencia sacked coach Gennaro Gattuso on Monday following the team’s poor results.
Valencia said in a statement it reached a mutual agreement with Gattuso to end their contract.
The announcement came after a 1-0 loss at Valladolid in the Spanish league on Sunday. The club has won only one of its last 10 league games, before the World Cup.
The latest defeat dropped Valencia to 14th place, one point above the relegation zone.
Its only two wins this year came in the Copa del Rey, though it was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Athletic Bilbao at home last week. In the Spanish Super Cup, Valencia lost to Real Madrid in a penalty shootout in the semifinals.
The 45-year-old Gattuso arrived last June on a two-year contract.
The former defensive midfielder helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup and AC Milan win two Champions League titles, both as a player. He coached Milan and Napoli in Italy.
Valencia did not announce a replacement for Gattuso.
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