Sunday evening, when most of us were enjoying the weekend’s comfort, there were cheers echoing in the fully-packed Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Lucknow. After defeating the defending team, Germany, in the semifinals, the Indian Team had stomped their way into the finals of the Hockey Junior World Cup, which was organised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), and had clinched the won it for the second time.
Though the conditions were in favour of the host team, the match was not easy to play, let alone, win. Since the clock started ticking, the Indian team launched a strong attack against the Belgians as they… the ball within Belgium’s circle. The team did make a sloppy start by missing the penalty corner due to a nervous drag flick by Harmanpreet Singh. However, when it crossed the eight minute mark, Gurjant Singh scored a wonderful reverse stick goal. This was followed by a goal in the twenty-second minute by Simranjeet Singh. Belgium pushed very hard but failed to get through India’s solid defense. They won penalty corner in the last fifteen seconds, but then, it was too late. India won the match and clinched the title again, fifteen years after they won their maiden Junior World Cup title in 2001.
The journey was tough but the determination was high. The team was mentored by the coach Harendra Singh. After being branded as an underachiever and dropped by the national squad, he became the coach of the side in 1998. He was determined to give his all to shape the future of the Indian Hockey team and grabbed the opportunity when he got it to make his country proud. Second goalkeeper for India, Krishan B Pathak put his country before his family, missing his father’s funeral as they were travelling to England for a series. Seven members of the team, including the captain, Harjeet Singh, were sons of truck drivers, and had fought hard for their dream. They refused to let their economic background stop them from achieving it. This was the same team which had won the Junior Asia Cup last year.
This success was also, in part, due to the efforts and steps taken by Hockey India. Organising events like Hockey India League had acted as a stage for budding players to interact and play with international stars. And show their talent and love for the game. Although, this league has not achieved as much support as Indian Premier League does. A cricket match garners jam-packed stadiums and high-level endorsements. It is because of the love towards the game. We hold our breath when a six is hit out of the park. Why can’t we cheer for quality drag flicks and powerful goal-smashers? If our hockey teams are showered the same kind of love and support, they would never disappoint the nation. Increase in the supporters for the team would ensure more financial support for the team, from both Indian authorities and sponsors. This would also encourage the youngsters to take part in sports like hockey.
With such stellar performances, like the Junior World Cup win, the spark has begun. We just have to provide the air to bring out the fire for a bright future in sports.