A prince will come riding on the horse, will take care of you and you will be living happily ever after. This is told to every girl: marriage and family is what lies ahead for her. But not anymore, with the qualifying of Indian Women’s Hockey team after 36 years one can hope medal hanging on neckline instead Mangalsutra.
The players of Indian Women Hockey team weren’t even born when women’s hockey made its debut in the Olympics. There is no records to break but records only to make, many things in their lives are happening for the first time like boarding a plane to Rio or stepping out of country for an Olympic participation. While girls like Rani Rampal, Poonam Rani and Vandana Kataria are playing for the nation many of their friends are already married or few are having children as well. This could have been the same fate for them if they haven’t broken the stereotype village rules and making their tough road to Rio.
Disowned by neighborhood, family and friends the road to Rio wasn’t easy for them. With a foreign coach it was difficult for them to understand the accent while many of them even can’t understand or speak Hindi. Picked up from Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Orissa, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh etc the situations was same for all. Life was uphill task, family didn’t support to play, hostile oppositions by society and forced pull out from teams they managed to come out as a victorious to make India proud.
Each player have their own filmy story (sabki kahani puri filmy hai re…). Players were poverty stricken, the captain Chanu played because that’s how she is able to support her family. Her father is a truck driver who risks his life everyday to transport goods from Manipur to Meghalaya on treacherous roads. Because of his daughter he need not to go to work anymore. Lilima Minz and Namita Toppo have similar stories but above these they are motivated and confident enough to make us proud.
Midfielder Renuka Yadav is from the Maoist-affected district of Chhattisgarh and the first woman Olympian from the state. It was impossible to beat all the odds but they managed to do it. For most of them Commonwealth Games was the biggest event and none of them familiar with Olympic qualifying role. When chief coach, Australian Neil Hawgood set the goal of qualifying for the games, they didn’t understood what it meant. The first time they met, they were different in appearance, dresses, languages and what they ate. Perhaps it is their zeal to learn Hindi that eventually became the team’s link language.
Most of the players from current team are from middle or lower background, simple, shy, introvert and never seen the world. But it is for sure that when they are on ground understands the language of hockey and may the story end like Chak-De-India.
But the biggest worry is that most of the player from present squad won’t be able to manage to play in Tokyo Olympics, it is the junior squad that we must invest to build players for long time.