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Return of Hockey India League, focus on grassroots: HI President Dilip Tirkey's roadmap

Newly elected President of Hockey India Dilip Tirkey plans to focus on grassroots and hinted at a possible return of HIL in an exclusive chat with The Bridge.

Dilip Tirkey Hockey India
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Dilip Tirkey (Source: Times of India)

By

Pritish Raj

Tazeen Qureshy

Updated: 2022-09-25T22:04:08+05:30

India's sports landscape is ever-changing and one of the recent trends has seen former players taking over national federations as administrators.

Former Indian captain Dilip Tirkey created history on Friday when he became the first player-president of Hockey India after winning the HI president election unopposed.

A defender par excellence in his playing days, Dilip Tirkey has the record for most appearances for the Indian Hockey team.

The Bridge caught up with the newly-elected president of Hockey India and discussed his plans for hockey.

"I want to express my gratitude to everyone who supported me and put their trust in me. Historically, I am the first former player to become president of Hockey India and all this is possible because of all the state hockey association members and other administrators," Dilip Tirkey expressed his gratitude.

Talking about his new role, Tirkey said, "It is like a homecoming for me. I have learnt so much from hockey and I think it is time for me to give back. This is my chance to take hockey to next level."

"Hockey has been rising in India and we have recently won the Olympics bronze medal. There was a dark period for sure but now we are in a good place. Both our teams are one of the best in the world and the first motive is to fix a few issues to make them better," he outlined his priority.

Emphasising on the grassroots system, he said, "Our most important challenge and focus is going to be the junior and sub-junior level where we will focus the most. Grassroots is the place where you find your next-generation champions and we will focus on that. I want to remove the mentality that grassroots is not important, we will get the best facilities to the grassroots level as it is on the senior level."

Indian hockey fans miss the Hockey India League which used to be a world-class league with top players coming and participating in it. It benefited India a lot in terms of the youngsters getting exposure and rubbing shoulders with the champions.

"Hockey India League was an important part of the Indian hockey ecosystem. A lot of senior team players were a part of HIL as youngsters. A world-class league gives exposure to the youth of the country. We are looking into it and will work with FIH to get a window for HIL," Dilip Tirkey hinted at a possible return for HIL.

Being a player himself, Dilip explained the nuances that uplift hockey. "Specialists like goalkeepers and drag flickers make any team world-class. All the top teams in the world focus on these skills and we will work on the same that make India a better team," he said.

Kalyan Chaubey became AIFF president, Sourav Ganguly and Adille Sumariwalla are already at the helm of BCCI and AFI, and Dilip Tirkey is the latest addition to the trend of player-turned administrators.

"It is great that players are coming to the front and running the game now. Being an ex-player always helps because we know what is the formation of the team like, how the game works and what problems players face. So, it is great that players are coming in front," Tirkey said.

Dilip Tirkey with another former India hockey player Viren Rasquinha at Athens Olympics 2004. (Credits- Viren Rasquinha Twitter)

Odisha is synonymous with Indian hockey right now. Talking about the expansion, he said, "We will look to replicate it in other states and I am state associations will develop it in a way that we are having hockey pan-India."

On a parting note, Dilip had a message for all the fans who have watched him as a former player on the field. "Hockey has reached the levels because of these people present in the stadium. I will need your support and we will take hockey forward together. I will focus on grassroots, the specialist players and the development of more infrastructure."

Dilip Tirkey has a plan ready for Indian hockey and the fans. It is not going to be easy but with a man of his legacy, we can surely look at some exciting times ahead.

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