Forced into retirement, Tirkey hopes for solace in coaching

Kolkata: Shattered after persistent ankle
injuries dropped curtains on his career, former captain Dilip
Tirkey is contemplating coaching, for he believes he still has
a lot to offer to Indian hockey.

Considered one of the toughest defenders in the world in
his pomp, Tirkey wants to hone the skill of young tribal
players from his home district of Sundargarh in Orissa, now
known more for Maoist activities.

"We need to groom the young, talented players and give
them exposure. I want to coach them but things are yet to be
finalised," the unassuming former Indian captain told PTI.

Saddened by the way his career ended, Tirkey said he had
hoped to finish on a high by playing in the recent FIH World
Cup in Delhi and the two upcoming meets -- the Commonwealth
Games and the Asian Games.

"It was a packed year with three big tournaments. I
wanted to call it a day on a high, bringing laurels for the
country in all the three tournaments. But it did not happen,"
he rued.

On his retirement from international hockey, Tirkey said,
"It was a very tough decision to make. Both my ankles were not
holding up for about five-six months. All my efforts to
recover went in vain. They would heal and resurface again when
I started practising. So I had to give up eventually.

"It was a very very sad end to my career. I am really
disappointed, it has shattered me," he said.

The Orissa stalwart, who announced his retirement from
international hockey in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, represented the
country in 403 matches in a career spanning 15 years and said
India`s performance in the 2007 Asia Cup was the defining
moment of his career.

"Triumphs in the 1998 Asian Games and the 2003 Afro-Asian
Games will be the two other big moments of my career. But it
was our 7-2 win over Korea in the Asia Cup final in Chennai
that I will always cherish. They were a strong side and we
trounced them", Tirkey, who played his last match in the Asia
Cup last year, said.

Having represented India in three consecutive Olympics
from 1996 -- captaining the team in Athens in 2004 -- Tirkey
said he still regretted India`s performance in Sydney (2000).

"We failed to make the semis despite a good run. A
last-gasp equaliser by Poland in the pool game ended the match
1-1 and India missed out on a berth in the last four. It cost
us dear as we finished seventh after a 3-1 win against
Argentina in the classification match. That was really sad,"
he rued.

Another disappointment was when India failed to qualify
for the Beijing Olympics after going down to Great Britain in
the qualifiers in Chile last year.

"We did well overall but it was in the the qualifiers
where the team was not consistent. One bad run and it was
over. It will always remain a blot," said Tirkey, who made his
debut in the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup in 1995. There was a time when the Indian defence was manned by
Orissa players Tirkey and William Xalxo guarding the back-line
with the help of the Tirkey brothers-- Prabodh and Ignace---
both mid-fielders.

Reflecting on the recently concluded World Cup in Delhi
where no player from his state figured in the Indian team,
Tirkey said most of the Orissa players were on the injured

"But there are a number of players from the state like
Innocent Kullu, Manjeet Kullu and Belshazar Horo who are
talented juniors from Sundargarh district," Tirkey said.

Having seen the ups and downs of the Indian hockey in his
long career, Tirkey said the players had failed to cope with
the need for pace and perfection.

Tirkey also argued for a second team at the national
level to groom youngsters.

"Beside the main side, we need to have a second string
`A` side, allow them a lot of exposure so that they can
replace the main players any time," he explained.

Tirkey felt the game also needed to be popularised in the
big cities.

"We need to promote and popularise the game in metros.
There is a need to organise international matches so that
children can see the stars in action. They need to be

"I had grown up watching Pargat Singh. He was the best
deep defender when I was young. I saw him as my idol. For this
to happen, we need to involve corporates and develop
infrastructure," he said.



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