The players that consisted of the Jharkhand sub-junior boys’ team have overcome poverty and heavy odds to be crowned national champions last week.
Jharkhand made history when they won the 11th Hockey India Sub-Junior Men’s National Championship. Many of the players have risen above challenging circumstances — at home and on the turf — to make a name for themselves. Even in the final against favourites and host Haryana, they rose again and won in the shootout.
Jharkhand goalkeeper Duga Munda was one of the players of the tournament. He helped his side win shootouts in the semi-final match and the final. He is now reaping the rewards of his parents’ struggles over the years.
“I was keen to play hockey from the time I was a primary school student. I passed the trials for the RDC Centre in Kothi, where I am from. They were the ones who helped me with equipment. My parents didn’t have the resources to support me,” he said.
Being the eldest of four boys, 16-year-old Duga is determined to reach the top. “During my spare time, I help my dad, who is a farmer. My parents are happy to see me do well but making ends meet is still quite a task during these times,” he pointed out.
Duga’s hurdles are identical to Adisan Minj’s, who finished as Jharkhand’s top-scorer in the championship with six goals. He also helps his father, a farmer in Simdega. Eleven players from Jharkhand’s winning side are based in Simdega, who now have a new hockey turf.
“I could procure a hockey stick only after borrowing money from a friend. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to balance studies, play hockey, and help my family. I want to repay the faith my parents have in me. It is my dream to play for the senior team someday,” Adisan said.
It was testing times for forward Deepak Soreng and his family during the nationwide lockdown period due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
“The lockdown period was particularly hard as it affected my training sessions and my family had no source of income,” he emphasised.
“I had to work in the field with my father as well to support my parents. I want to play for India one day, as my parents have sacrificed a lot to help me.”
Soreng also had a memorable tournament, scoring three goals.
At 14, Kuldeep Balra is among the youngest members of the Jharkhand side. Like many of his teammates, he was doing odds jobs to support his family. “Today, I am a hockey player only because of the help of friends. I used to play with a makeshift hockey stick when I was younger,” he said.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been a lot tougher for my father, who is a farmer. I had to drive a rickshaw and sell vegetables so that the family could have a steady income. I am overjoyed that we managed to win the tournament. It was a result of a lot of sacrifices, hard work and determination,” he said.