Billy Pollock’s Letter from Bhubaneswar

The small group of supporters of Ireland men’s World Cup Squad are having a fantastic time in India. The craic is mighty and everyone had bonded very quickly.

The Irish supporters group

Bhubaneswar is an interesting cultural experience with the crazy, noisy traffic with tuk-tuk or taxi being an exciting, very cheap mode of transport. The horn blowing is constant and the sacred cows have to be regularly negotiated everywhere. The city has very many beautiful temples dating back to the 8th Century.

Some families and friends are staying at coastal resorts and travelling in for matches (1.5hrs trip), others like myself are in hotels within walking distance of the magnificent 15,000 seater Kalinga Stadium and taking in both matches every evening.

A great highlight was seeing hosts India playing Belgium in front of a full house on last Sunday. The atmosphere was something that will long in the memory. The Indian fans are so welcoming and friendly.

All the Irish supporters have been inundated for selfie requests! The local crowd of supporters are made up families plus many boys schools who fill the Stadium, very smartly attired in their uniforms. The ticket prices were on Rs 100 or Rs 200 (£1.60) a fraction of the very expensive tickets I paid for the London Ladies Hockey World Cup in the summer.

The Irish lads, Coach Alexander Cox and background team are staying at the beautiful 5* Mayfair Lagoon along with other teams such as Netherlands, England and Spain.

Billy Pollock with Irish coach Alexander Cox

However, they are pretty much in lockdown so it’s tough and with many days between match nights, the scenario must be very difficult to manage. Plus training at night under floodlights attracting thousands of insects has been a nightmare.

I’m staying in 3* accommodation which was one of the only nearby hotels available and is extremely basic after the 5* delights in Delhi and Agra on route.

I’ve even had a “rodent” in-room visitor, others fans on the coast have encountered a “snake” and the Hockey Ireland President Martin Canniffe was a target for the mosquitos.

I’ve been using the Mayfair complex excellent local cuisine for lunch most days and usually, there is an after match evening drinks and “debrief” in the hotel pub! Pleased to report none of the fans have encountered the infamous “Delhi Belly” so fingers crossed and keep praying lol.

Big thanks to the lovely Carol Metchette (here, coaching the Video Analysis Teams). She kindly managed to get us all Official Programmes from the “VIP area”!

A massive congratulations to the Bhubaneswar organisers, the tournament, the Fan Village, the security, the welcome are all top notch! I met an Aussie Hockey Masters friend last night and he is here working for FIH planning the Tokyo Olympic Tournament in 2020!

One disappointing comment is there is no representative Umpire from Ireland. There are up and coming high-class Irish Umpires, but more are obviously needed and what experience that guy could have had here, umpiring world-class hockey and enjoying the cultural experience!

Lastly, I know the supporters back have been cheering on watch BTSport. This had been most appreciated by the team and supporting fans and we want a very loud cheer on Friday when the Green Machine take on England!

Warm Regards from India
Billy Pollock, Chair Ulster Hockey

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