New Delhi: One week since the historic Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Lucknow Men 2016 triumph where the Indian Junior Men’s squad led by Harjeet Singh clinically edged past Belgium in the Final, the junior hockey stars are not resting on the laurels of this big win.
In fact, as many as seven players from the playing 11 including skipper Harjeet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Vikas Dahiya, Varun Kumar, Gurjant Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Dipsan Tirkey are away in Kolkata playing the 121st All India Beighton Cup Hockey Tournament 2016. Though they are eager to arrive home and celebrate with their family and friends, hockey lovers in Kolkata have ensured the players receive a grand homecoming, away from home. “Almost every day we are being invited for felicitation functions here in Kolkata and several hockey lovers are coming and meeting us at the SAI Centre where we are playing the Beighton Cup. The kind of love and respect we are receiving is extremely encouraging,” stated Gurjant Singh, who scored the splendid short corner goal in the Final that earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya too added that the team’s popularity among the masses post the world cup win has only instilled more confidence in them to achieve greater goals in world hockey. “On Sunday Department of Sports, Government of West Bengal along with Bengal Hockey Association organized a function and called us as Chief Guests. It was such a proud moment for us and everyone there kept saying we are the future of Indian hockey and it feels so encouraging to hear it from the crowd, our biggest support. Even the taxi drivers here recognize us and now people are hopeful that we will bring back more trophies like this to India. Such expectations and support will only urge us to work harder in the coming days,” said Dahiya.
While the attention Harjeet and his team has received in this past week is overwhelming, the respective state governments from where these players come from have announced cash bonanza of Rs 25.00 Lakhs (Punjab Govt.), Rs 20.00 Lakhs (Haryana Govt.) and Rs 5.00 Lakh per player from Hockey India has ensured the players stay motivated in their course to achieve greater echelons in world hockey. “Most of us come from humble backgrounds so much so that when we started playing hockey, we didn’t have two square meals to go back home to. Forget a hockey stick, we could not afford half a litre of milk,” expressed an emotional Harjeet Singh, whose father Rampal Singh works as a truck driver. “I have experienced poverty but hockey has given me a new life. Today, with the money I got from Hockey India League (HIL) and Rs 10.00 Lakhs from Hockey India awards this year, I could build a house in Kurali, my hometown. The cash awards announced by the Government and Hockey India for winning the World Cup will only boost the confidence of young players like us to stay committed and hungry to win many more tournaments. This ensures we don’t have to worry about financial constraints faced by our parents and just focus on hockey. We can contribute to our families’ financial expenses now which is a big relief,” said the 20-year-old skipper who wants his father to retire.
Meanwhile, for players like Mandeep Singh, Santa Singh, Parvinder Singh, Gurinder Singh who arrived in Punjab last week, the homecoming has been heartwarming. “When we arrived in Amritsar airport last week it was quite late in the night but there were so many people who had patiently waited to receive us. We had a small function in our academy in Batala where more than 250 young players and fans had come to meet us. Almost every day we have visitors who come home and want to hear our World Cup experience. To me, this kind of love and support is far more encouraging than any cash awards,” stated the lanky forward Parvinder Singh.