The Odisha Sports Journalist Association conferred lifetime achievement award to the eminent veteran footballer Debaranjan Prasad Singh and the award of sportsman of the year to international athlete Purnima Hembram at the OSJA Foundation Day celebrations here on Wednesday.
State sports department commissioner-cum-secretary Vishal Dev and renowned weightlifting coaches Pal Singh Sandhu and Hansa Sharma Manral handed over the awards, which carried a cheque of Rs 25,000 each along with citation and memento.
In the absence of Purnima, who is now in Australia, preparing for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, her father Dukhia Hembram received the award on her behalf.
Both Sandhu and Manral praised Odisha government for having carved a niche for itself in sports by creating good infrastructure and hosting international level meets.
Odisha has groomed a number of international weightlifters. They urged upon sports journalists to remain positive while reporting and encourage sports persons.
Hansha Manral, the first woman Dronacharya Awardee, described proper talent scouting, coaches’ education, scientific support and more funding as four major requirements for development of sports in the country.
Mr Vishal Dev said “Odisha has registered national level benchmarks in several fields – investments, poverty reduction, industrialisation etc and the latest in its series of achievements have been in the field of sports.
Hosting of the Asian Athletic championship in record time of just 90 days , the world hockey league and ISL football etc have made people from other parts of India and abroad take notice of the state and its infrastructure.”
“Sports is a great connect among people , it is perhaps the only area where people get together without any caste or religious divisions. When India is playing, everyone is there , nobody talks about a Sikh or Hindu or Muslim player …it is India,” he noted.
Mr Dev said “it was a wonderful feeling when contingent of 53 nations, including China, Japan etc entered Kalinga Stadium for the marchpast on the opening day of the Asian Athletic Championship – one of the first major events organised within 90 days.
Each one of us in Odisha felt proud on that day and we have never looked behind since, he remarked. Mr Dev assured greater coordination between the department and OSJA for the betterment of sports and sports journalism.