Jaap Stockmann is regarded by millions as one of the best hockey goalkeepers in the world, but for many not-so-affluent Indian children, the Dutchman is a hero, a saviour of their dreams.
Stockmann has proved the proverb ‘Charity begins at home’ wrong through his pet project ‘Chak de India’, a charitable initiative that has provided over 7,000 pieces of hockey equipment to deprived children throughout India, giving aspiring hockey players the chance to train and play the game.
While travelling around the country in the last three while playing in the Hockey India League (HIL), Stockmann witnessed the difficulties children in the remote villages face in their pursuit to learn the sport and this first-hand account led to the birth of the ‘Chak de India’ project.
“When I first played in Hockey India League three years back I saw huge enthusiasm for the sport which was fantastic. I saw the kids really love playing the game but there was lack of equipments. I saw children from villages use homemade stuff and play on a gravel field,” Stockmann told PTI during the just-concluded Hero Hockey World League (HWL) Final in Raipur.
“Back home in Holland, a lot of people are playing hockey but a lot of people throw away their equipment after some time and buy new ones. That is when I thought to collect equipment in Holland and send it to India and these can be used by the underprivileged kids,” he said.
Stockmann, who used to play for Jaypee Punjab Warriors, then shared the idea with former India coach Jagbir Singh who was in the support staff of the HIL outfit, and the latter got him connected to veteran hockey writer-cum former IIT graduate K Arumugam, who runs an NGO ‘One Thousand Hockey Legs’.
Within six months of conceptualizing the project, Stockmann collected 7,000 second-hand hockey equipment which included sticks, balls, goalie equipment and shoes of top brands.
“It was a huge success. In two months we collected a full container of goalkeeping kits, shirts, hockey sticks and everything. Six months ago, it reached India and now the school kids are using it,” Stockmann said.
“It started as a one-time project but in future I am going to do it again. Reactions were very positive so it was really nice.”
However, everything was not smooth for Stockmann as he faced a lot of logistical problems in shipping the container to India.
But then came the support from his sponsor, Greenfields, who took care of the logistical problems.
“The container stayed in Holland for almost two years. I was very busy in getting everything fixed with the customs and after two years, it was fixed and the container was sent to India.
“The problem we faced is that it took some time to ship the equipment to India because of customs. But in the end my sponsor Greenfields took care of all the transport issues with help from Hockey India and respective ministries,” the Dutch goalkeeper said.