Junior Hockey World Cup: Hardships Spurred Indian Colts to Dream Big
New Delhi: India’s victory in the Junior Hockey World Cup has once again raised hopes of a revival of the sport in the country. While the senior team has been producing encouraging results this year, the triumph of the colts reaffirms the fact that the next generation is also on the right track.
India’s victory in the junior World Cup is only their second in the long history of the tournament and comes a decade and a half after their maiden triumph in 2001. While, Harendra Singh’s boys were one of the pre-tournament favourites, they still had to get the better of a strong field to finally come up trumps.
Captain Harjeet Singh, goalkeepers Vikas Dahiya and Krishan Bahadur Pathak, defenders Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar, midfielder Sumit Kumar and forward Ajit Kumar Pandey, all come from humble backgrounds. One things that binds these seven together, apart from the world conquering feat, is that their fathers worked day and night to ensure that their wards could represent the country.
“My father never refused anything to me. My stick used to break while playing but he made sure I get a new one. He has always supported me and helped me achieving my goals,” Harjeet told News18 during an exclusive interview.
Harjeet’s father had a monthly income of five thousand rupees, but he did all that he could to help his son realise his dream of playing for the country.
“I knew it was tough for him to fulfill all my desires, but he did it with a smile on his face,” he said.
Goal-keepers Vikas Dahiya and Krishan Bahadur Pathak have similar stories to tell.
Dahiya whose heroics in the penalty-shootout against Australia in the semi-final gave India a crack at the title recollects how his father arranged money to buy a good goal-keeping kit for him.
“My father works as a truck driver in a factory. Despite earning not so well, he never said no to me.”
Reserve keeper Krishna Bahardur Pathak, who originally hails from Nepal, lost his father earlier this year. His father Tek Bahadur worked as a crane operator.
Despite receiving a go-ahead from coach Harendra Singh for going back to perform his fathers last rites, who had expired in his home town Lugdi in Nepal, a young Krishan decided to stay back in order to represent the national team on the tour of England.
“My father came in search of a job in India. My sisters and brothers were born in Nepal, but I was born in Kapurthala. They are all 20 years older to me. I speak to them whenever I get time, I miss them,” Krishan said.
For most of these youngsters, this triumph is just a stepping stone to bigger things that await them in the future. What they need to remember is the hardships that they have faced to reach so far and keep their feet firmly on the ground as they enter an all new phase in their international career.
Here’s a look at the highs and lows of Indian hockey.
Watch Out For This Hockey Team in Future: Harjeet Singh
Lucknow: After leading the Indian side to a memorable World Cup winning victory, India’s captain Harjeet Singh said the current team will “give a lot of joy” to the countrymen in near future.
A clinical India defeated Belgium 2-1 in the summit clash to reclaim the title after a long gap of 15 year.
Harjeet thanked his teammates for the superb show and complemented the packed Major Dyan Chand Astroturf stadium here for support throughout the tournament.
“I would like to thank all the players who aimed to win this trophy. Everybody has put in a lot of hardwork under discipline. We all had one aim and we thankfully managed to achieve that today,” an emotional Harjeet said at the post-match press conference.
Harjeet said they approached the match as any other game and just concentrated on performing their duties on the turf.
“We all knew what we have to do in the field, everyone knew their duties. We just concentrated on that and played simple hockey. We played the final like a final.”
“We were leading by two goals and our planning was to sit back and defend and rely on counters. We played according to our plan. Every player put in energy,” he said.
“In April 2014, I had said that we are going to win the trophy, you can ask these boys,” he said.
“The heroes are the players and I won’t take the limelight. These are 18 golden gems of India and it is their day.”
Chief coach of the senior men s team Roelant Oltmans, who was the manager of the junior side here, said the Indian colts played near perfect hockey, which was desired from the boys in a big match.
The boys did a fantastic job and all the credit to these 18 players,” the Dutchman said.
Belgium coach Jeroen Baart said the crowd support did make a difference on Sunday.
“India started really well. Our boys didn’t handle the crowd and the atmosphere really well. They (India) were pretty fast. After the initial stages we became more patient and that gave us a little bit of momentum but they scored another goal,” he said.
Baart, however, was proud with the way his wards played in a big match.
“I am very proud of the boys they played in the second half. They adjusted to the crowd pretty well. They were patient and didn’t try to force themselves,” he said.
“But it was not very easy to play India in India at such a fantastic atmosphere. We weren’t good enough on the day to beat India in India.”
Junior Hockey World Cup 2016: India Beat Belgium 2-1 to Clinch Title After 15 Years
It turned out to be a historic day for India as they reclaimed the title for the second time in the history of the tournament. India had last won way back in 2001, under Gagan Ajit Singh’s leadership, in Australia.
The home side dominated the match from the first whistle with Belgium hardly getting a glimpse of the Indian goal in the opening stages of the first half.
Harendra Singh’s troops were duly rewarded for their attacking intent as a brilliant reverse hit from Gurjant Singh gave India the lead in the 9th minute itself.
The Belgian goalkeeper came down rushing from the goal to the edge of the box to thwart the Indian chance but Gurjant improvised and hit a brilliant strike from zero angle and the ball landed in the right hand top corner of the goal.
The Indian colts then doubled the lead in the first half itself with Simranjeet Singh getting on the scoresheet this time. Simaranjeet’s shot from the edge of the box went inside the goal from underneath Van Doren’s leg.
India got two penalty corners in the second half but failed to convert either of them.
Belgium pulled one back via a penalty corner in the dying minutes of the game to make it a respectable score of 2-1.