By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, June 30, 2018: India is home to countless indigenous games which are geography and climate specific and health boosting. Even when the British ruled, cricket was only a radio-game for the urban elite. The bulk of the population loved kabaddi, hockey and football much more than the present-day money-laden cricket which has killed all other games due to artificial glamour provided by television.

Lok association football is called soccer, our hockey is known as ‘field hockey’ which is also considered national game of Pakistan a part of undivided India, like ‘kabbadi’. Incidentally, field hockey has remained the most successful sport for India with eight Olympic gold medals and many wizards having been created including the legendary Dhyanchand on whose birthday on 29 August, India celebrates the national sports day. Other indigenous sports such as kho-kho, kabaddi, kite flying and Gillidanda.

In Chess, Snooker, badminton, and kabbadi, India has won Olympic medals like in wrestling, shooting, weightlifting, boxing and tennis. India has also won World Cups in Cricket, Field Hockey and kabbadi. But hockey is a universally popular game and a fast one like soccer.

No wonder, India has hosted and co-hosted several international sporting events including the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games, the 1985, 1995 and 2016 South Asian Games, the 1987, 1996, 2011 Cricket World Cup and 2016 ICC World Twenty20. the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, the 1989, 2013 and 2017 Asian Athletics Championships, the 1982 Asia, the 2010 Men’s Field hockey World Cup, 2016–17 Men’s FIH Hockey World League.

As if desired by the Lord, most hockey talents got born in Odisha over the last three decades, particularly in the tribal regions of Western Odisha who made India proud. Needless to mention, the state government took special care to promote the game with utmost sincerity and today Odisha is the breeding ground of Hockey wizards.

The Kalinga stadium was especially turned into a hockey hub and international tournaments have been held with incredible success. Due to hockey, the sports administrators got so enthusiastic that they created super-class global infrastructure to hold any sports event like athletics, football and more. Today, only because of proven skills of officials and unforgettable experiences of sports persons and officials from all over, Bhubaneswar is now considered the de facto sports capital of India.

It is common knowledge that most countries have popular games that are recognised as de facto national games. Football, cricket and kabbadi et cetera are the common ones. But some countries have been sensitive to being formally specific. They have notified their games as lawfully approved so as to promote them with a fitting funds allocation to ensure incentives and other promotional expenses:

• Argentina – Pato 1953
• Bahamas – Cricket 1973
• Bangladesh – Kabaddi 1972
• Brazil – Soccer 1972
• Canada – Lacrosse in summer; Ice hockey in winter 1994
• Chile -Chilean Rodeo 1962
• Columbia- Tejo 2000
• Iran -Varzesh-e-Bastani, Wrestling, Polo 1976
• Mexico- Cross country 1933
• Nepal – Volleyball 2017
• Philippines – Arnis 2009
• Puerto Rico -Paso Fino 1996
• South Korea – Taekwondo 2018
• Sri Lanka- Volleyball 1991
• Uruguay – Destrezas Criollas 2006

The sensitive Naveen administration got to know that Hockey is not as yet a lawfully notified national game of India while Pakistan keeps claiming it as its national game. Fortunately, the neighbour too has not got it formalised as de jure. So it is extremely important that India grab it as its own in the global sports landscape.

But strangely, because Naveen placed the proposal with the Prime Minister Modi, the BJP outfit with all their super fertile sports brains found the issue an inane one and virtually trashed it. The sports minister Rathore, himself an Olympian shooting medalist, trivialised the proposal saying it’s known to all that Hockey is India’s national game, and there is no need to make it de jure. For sure, he never studied well; for he has no knowledge of Pakistan’s claim to the same.

More painfully, the local BJP numb skulls and pinheads raised an out of the context issue regarding a popular state – song by way of an anthem to be formalised to attain a de jure status. As usual, the perpetually news-hungry media, particularly the ever-boring television channels kept harping on the ‘Bande Utkal Janani’ number having been ignored all this time.

The saffron brigade of Odisha has gone insane. They would not ever know that Pakistan has become wise and may declare Hockey it’s national game any moment. India will then be forced to become a helpless copycat even if it too does give Hockey a formal national status after the age old rival does take a fast step. Bangladesh has taken away Kabaddi.

India may have to settle down with ‘Gullidanda’ without a choice then. Naveen was keen to bring glory to a game that has brought India so much laurel and pride. But the sports minister with a perfectly laudable sports background and upbringing had to please the headless masters only to prevent Naveen from becoming a pioneer or hero.

Modi, Amit Shah or any other saffron biggie cannot afford to ignore Naveen on the political canvass because they know too well it’s Naveen again in 2019. They are too sure that without Naveen’s support they may have to melt away to obscurity as non-BJP forces are gaining strength by the day. The Modi magic is on the wane and Amit Shah is boring and irritating masses more than ever before. It is very likely that Rathore, the gunman sports minister has to hide his face in shame one of these days for habing paid no heed to a very important matter of national dignity.

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