India: Odisha’s hockey juggernaut powers into Quarter-Finals; Head Coach Sujit Lakra credits grassroots structure and world-class infra

~Hockey Association of Odisha gears up to face Hockey Haryana in the Quarter-Finals~

Pune, 20 March 2024: At the 14th Hockey India Senior Women National Championship 2024, the Hockey Association of Odisha (HAO) secured a decisive win against Hockey Chandigarh, solidifying their position atop their pool and guaranteeing a spot in the Quarter-Finals. Following this impressive 6-1 victory, Head Coach Sujit Lakra offered insights on the team’s prospects in their forthcoming clash against Haryana. He emphasized the significance of grassroots development programs in Odisha and the intensifying level of competition from participating states. 

In the Quarter-Finals, Hockey Association of Odisha will face the experienced Hockey Haryana. 

Speaking on the team’s approach in this tournament, Head Coach Sujit Lakra said, “For us, our focus will be on execution. Yes, Haryana is a very strong team, and they have a strong core of Indian Women’s Hockey Team players, but that does not matter on the match day. Our objective is to stick to our roles and execute what we have learnt in practice. My message to the players is not to overthink and take pride in representing Odisha.” 

The Hockey Association of Odisha features three Indian Women’s Hockey Team players in the squad including Mariana Kujur, Ajmina Kujur and Jyoti Chhatri. On their impact, the head coach opined, “They have a big impact in the team, not only do they motivate the other players, but they bring with them the experience of high-pressure situations. They also have had more exposure to players from other states and can help the team tactically as well.” 

The Hockey Association of Odisha has consistently been a force to reckon with at the Senior Women National Championship. In the previous edition, they finished in fifth place and emerged as Champions in the edition before that. Sujit Lakra attributed the success to the significant effort that has been poured into nourishing the hockey ecosystem in Odisha, including grassroots initiative and infrastructure that comprises 23 Hockey Training Centres, Sports Hostels and the Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High-Performance Centre. 

“I think we have excellent infrastructure in Odisha that enables us to develop hockey extensively. Furthermore, we have numerous grassroots initiatives. This not only serves as a pipeline for talent identification but when a player reaches the senior set-up, the transition period is shortened because they already have a certain level of skill, fitness, and professionalism. As a coach, it is easy for us to work with them.” 

Sujit Lakra underscored the growing level of competition at the Senior Women National Championships and lauded the various measures implemented by Hockey India towards empowering member associations. “The level of competition is very high this year. Every time we come back to the National Championship it gets more competitive. Hockey India has done an excellent job of promoting the game. For example, last year, Hockey India provided vital playing equipment including hockey sticks and hockey balls to every member state. If you provide frequent competitions and equipment, then it is no surprise that the game will grow, and the quality will get better every year.” 

All the matches will be live-streamed on FanCode.

By Hockey India

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