Former Odisha hockey player languishes in poverty as country celebrates bronze win

Like most tribal children in Sundargarh district, Majhi took to hockey at the age of 11 when he joined the sports hostel at Panposh.

The bronze-winning performance of the Indian men’s hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics has certainly rekindled popular interest in hockey, but a 26-year-old former full-back from Odisha who once represented the state in senior national men’s championship has been working as a migrant labourer to make ends meet.

Playing for Gangpur-Odisha hockey team (one of the associate teams of Hockey India) in 2013 and 2014 senior men’s hockey championship, Santosh Majhi, a tribal from Lulkidihi village of Sundargarh district stood like a rock defending his team’s goals from the marauding forwards of the opponent teams. But 7 years later, Majhi’s world is far removed from the world of hockey as he migrated to Goa last year to work in fishing vessels for 6000 a month.

“I have no other alternative than to go out to work. I have no future left in hockey though I would have loved to play,” said Majhi from his home in Lulkidihi village that has produced at least two Olympians Deepgrace Ekka of the women’s hockey team and former Olympian Ignace Tirkey. With at least 7 international players, Lulkidihi is considered as the nursery of hockey in Odisha along with Saunamara village from where former captain of the Indian hockey team, Dilip Tirkey hails.

Like most tribal children in Sundargarh district, Majhi took to hockey at the age of 11 when he joined the sports hostel at Panposh. For his daily wage earner father, sports promised a getaway from the drudgeries of life. In the hostel he shone as a defender and played for the Hockey Gangpur team in 2013 and 2014. After leaving the sports hostel in 2015, he played for Paradip Port Trust in All India Major Ports Hockey Championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but could not get a job there.

Majhi said in 2016, he had tried for a job in the Indian Army through the sports quota, but was disqualified during the medical test over a varicose veins issue. His problems have also been compounded as he could not complete his higher secondary exam in 2016 after suffering a fracture in his hand.

Arun Kumar Sahu, a social activist of the area, said it is disturbing to see players like Majhi struggle for a living. “While the state government and the Centre are spending crores for hockey, it would be good to rehabilitate players like him,” said Sahu.

Odisha sports secretary Vineel Krishna said though Majhi represented Gangpur Odisha in senior nationals, he did not secure any position. “Though the state government has a policy of giving government jobs to all medallists, He is not eligible for a job as per the notification of the home department,” he said.

Source: Hindustan Times


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