Sunday, December 3, 2023

Hockey World Cup: Rourkela stadium opened, India players’ huge cash award

India’s players will earn US$125,000 (£105,000) each should they win the Men’s World Cup for the host nation. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced the incentive after opening the new hockey complex in Rourkela, the city hosting matches alongside Bhubaneswar at the 2023 World Cup.

The 15th edition gets under way next Friday, with Rourkela hosting 20 of the 44 matches at this year’s tournament, the second in succession to be held on Indian soil.

“It will inspire many budding players of the country and the world. The stadium would be the biggest gift of Odisha to the nation,” Patnaik said after opening the stadium, which has a capacity of around 21,000.

Patnaik had claimed the international stadium, named after freedom fighter Birsa Munda, to be the world’s biggest hockey venue. 

But that claim has been disputed, with the Chandigarh Hockey Stadium reputedly having a capacity of 30,000, while Lahore’s national stadium in Pakistan holds 45,000. However, Rourkela is certainly set to host regular international hockey.

The stadium was completed in around 15 months after being sanctioned in February 2021 by Patnaik.

In November, Hockey India announced a ‘landmark decision’ to award cash awards for every win the men’s and women’s national sides produce.

In a statement, the new policy was referred as a “big boost to morale” in which players will be assured of cash incentives annually. But this World Cup prize certainly dwarves their initial ‘cash for victories’ policy.

Odisha’s chief also opened the World Cup village complex, adjacent to the stadium and practice pitch, which has 225 rooms and will house the competing teams.

There is a connecting tunnel between the changing rooms and the practice pitch, while the sports complex also comes with fitness centre and swimming pool.

The 16 nations are currency arriving in Bhubaneswar for warm-up matches. Belgium are defending champions and have the most experienced squad.

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