As the Indian women's hockey team qualified for the Olympics semis for the first time, making history, the unwavering support of Odisha and its Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the team drew praise on social media.
Naveen Patnaik posted a video and a message congratulating the team.
"It is a matter of pride for the whole country that the women's hockey team has reached the semi-finals of the Olympics for the first time. We, the people of Odisha, are proud of the fact that Odisha has been supporting both national teams since 2014," the Chief Minister tweeted.
In the video, Mr Patnaik says: "Congratulations India. What a terrific game our women's hockey team played against Australia. Keep it up. The best of luck."
The women's team, the world No. 9, scored their place in history a day after the Indian men's team beat Britain to enter the Olympics semifinals following a 49-year gap.
BJP MP Pratap Simha was among those who gave a shout-out to Mr Patnaik, 74, who played hockey and was goalkeeper when he studied in the Doon school.
"Thank you Naveen Patnail, CM of Odisha, for being the mentor of Indian Hockey Team," tweeted the MP from Karnataka.
The Odisha government, according to reports, has been the sponsor of both the Indian men's and women's hockey teams since 2018 and has invested around Rs 150 crore. The state's name is on the jerseys.
Anil Swarup, a former bureaucrat, tweeted: "I am no more amazed at what Naveen Patinaik does. It is perhaps a routine with him. Look at what his support for hockey has done to the Indian team. Here is a man who talks less & walks more. Surprisingly he doesn't talk even after walking. Are some others listening?"
Actor Rahul Bose, an avid Rugby player, said he had observed Odisha's support for hockey for years.
"Since 2018 I have watched @sports_odisha, Naveen Patnaik and the entire sports ecosystem in the state back Indian hockey. Today must be a sweet day for all," the actor tweeted.
I am no more amazed at what @Naveen_Odisha does. It is perhaps a routine with him. Look at what his support for hockey has done to the Indian team. Here is a man who talks less & walks more. Surprisingly he doesn't talk even after walking. Are some others listening? @CMO_Odishahttps://t.co/Yvaa6ldX0h— Anil Swarup (@swarup58) August 1, 2021
Many tweeted with the hashtag #ThankYouNaveenPatnaik.
Odisha has also backed major hockey tournaments in Bhubaneswar like the Men's World Cup, World League, Pro-League and Olympics qualifiers.
In a country where cricket is the national obsession and has attracted outsized sponsorships, hockey has never quite enjoyed the same fan following. Many commented on Twitter that a "not-so-rich" state had been sponsoring both teams