With just ten days left for the start of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, the captain of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team expressed the mood in the dressing room at the stellar Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium.
As hosts, India is fancied to finish on the podium and the expectations are far greater this time particularly after the team’s stupendous performance at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 where they ended a 41-year long wait to stand on the podium again by bagging the Bronze Medal.
“There is anticipation and excitement in equal measure," expressed Harmanpreet. “As the team bus entered the Rourkela city and drove closer to the hockey facility, there were thousands of fans who thronged the streets with tri-colour flags and cheered for us as they welcomed us into their home town. We were simply speechless by the gesture, and it was then that we actually got a sense of how much hockey means to the people of this region," exclaimed the ace dragflicker.
Speaking candidly, Harmanpreet went on to add, “Until we arrived here, we had only heard about the passion and love people have for hockey here through our teammates Nilam and Amit but it was only after we witnessed the reception we received on our arrival, did we realise that this World Cup experience will be like no other."
Starting January 4, international teams will start arriving in Odisha for the coveted tournament. Former runners-up the Netherlands will be the first team to arrive on Wednesday, followed by Chile on Thursday and the defending Champions Belgium arrive on Friday along with the World no.1 Australia among other teams. Each day, until the January 8, hosts Hockey India and Odisha State Government will be welcoming participating teams to the hockey-crazy state, which is hosting its second Hockey World Cup.
“After the World Cup in Kalinga Hockey Stadium in 2018, every single participating team went back with great memories and it was the spectators, the incredible venue, the hospitality, the way everything was executed that made the previous World Cup so special for players. In Rourkela, the atmosphere will be doubly exhilarating and I am eagerly waiting for every team to experience this love people have for hockey. They are not only going to cheer for India, but for every team," Harmanpreet highlighted.
While the newly built Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium readies for a grand opening on January 5 by the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, one can sense the eagerness with which fans are awaiting the start of the tournament. It’s imperative to note that tickets for all 20 matches in Rourkela is sold out and in Bhubaneswar, people continue to make a beeline to grab the remaining few tickets up for sale.
“There is already a festive atmosphere here in Rourkela and Bhubaneswar. It’s been almost a week since we arrived here and the energy is incredible. We love the peppy World Cup anthem that was launched recently, a country-wide Trophy Tour has got everyone talking about the event and here in Odisha itself, there are so many celebratory events planned around the World Cup that everyone travelling for this event have a chance to witness more than just hockey," expressed Amit Rohidas, the Vice Captain of the team who hails from the Sundergarh region.
Rohidas further emphasised on the team’s preparations as he said, “Emotions and excitement aside, we are focused on our goal. This is probably the best chance for us to stand on the podium and surely the expectations have gone up after we won a medal at the Olympic Games."
“We are putting in final touches to our game. We have gone about some quality training sessions in the new stadium and will be playing some practice matches once the foreign teams arrive here. In all, we are looking forward to some fantastic days of hockey coming up," Rohidas signed off.
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