Hockey World Cup Tour Diary: The unmentioned goal-scorers

BHUBANESWAR: Putting something together is not easy. ConsiderLego. Even a tiny block lying in some corner is critical to the final figure or shape. Ignore it and the whole structure may come crumbling down. The bigger the structure, the more challenging it becomes. Hosting an event of world standards, sports or otherwise, is a similar grind. Right from erecting huge stands to making sure the floor is wiped daily during the event, the effort requires hard work from different quarters.

India is hosting a World Cup in Bhubaneswar. In the media box and VIP lounges of the Kalinga Stadium, it’s all cushy. In the galleries, fans are coming in numbers even on days when the home team isn’t playing, which is a testimony that they are enjoying as well.

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That’s big thumbs up for Hockey India and Odisha.

But to keep any event that way from start to finish, it requires an army of personnel and their services — right from police manning the entry gates to the volunteer in the stands guiding fans.

It’s 2 pm and Anil Kumar Rout has just arrived to the stadium. Since November 28, and maybe a little before that, he has been coming here at the same time daily. Rout is a trainee of the hockey academy in the Kalinga Stadium and among approximately the 150-odd young player-volunteers here, recognised by their yellow jerseys and blue pants.

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They are from different parts of Odisha, including the hockey hotbeds Sundargarh and Rourkela.

Rout is moving up and down the stairs in the West Stand with a few boxes in his hands. Those are extension points to make electricity accessible in the outdoor press box.

Some more kids like Rout are putting seat covers on the adjacent seats to make the area stand out as one of the VIP enclosures. They will take those off at the end of the day.

They all play hockey. But during the World Cup, they are volunteering.

“I am from Bhubaneswar and we live in the hostel here at the Kalinga Stadium. We are not training for the duration of the World Cup and volunteering with different tasks,” said the 11th-standard student. “And we get to watch international hockey as well,” he smiled.

Their boarding and lodging is taken care of by the academy here.

Inside the media lounge, temperature is nicely conditioned with cool air. The coffee table is sufficiently supplied.

Laptops lined up on the long centre tables are buzzing with the sound of fingers punching keyboards. And there’s a different sound as well, that of cups and plates.

It’s 3 pm. Jeeshan Naresh is arranging crockery. It’s his duty today to provide tea, coffee and cookies.

Suddenly, there’s a request from the other corner of the hall. “Can somebody mop this up, please?” An uncapped bottle just got knocked down and the water in it spilled on the floor.

Akbar Nayak comes running. He’s always there, standing with gloves on at the corner of the entrance towards rest rooms.

“Main karta hoon sir (I will clean it),” says Nayak, as he moves the chair to make some space for criss-crossing his mop on the floor.

It’s 8:30 pm now. The day is drawing towards close. As reports get punched in, everybody is looking for a printout for the official match-sheet.

“Here’s your copy, sir.” Manveer Singh comes with a handful of sheets, distributing it one by one.
Like the other volunteers and workers, he is there too every day — doing his duty.
By 9 pm, these unsung heroes start leaving for the day, collecting their dinner packets on the way — only to return the next day and get going again. Their pals from different parts of the ground are also making their way out, after completing another day of telling contribution, which is less than none.
These are the unmentioned goal-scorers of the World Cup.