There are many comeback stories, but few of them are as inspiring as Sandeep Singh’s. He made it back to the team, after suffering a gunshot wound and bei restricted to a wheelchair for almost two years. We speak to him about his love for the game, his biopic and how he is contributing to the development of hockey in India. Excerpts:
What is the one thing about hockey as a game that you like the most?
I enjoy the teamwork and the skills that the game build in you. Hockey teaches you that winning or losing is only a part of the game, but that being part of a team helps you develop the strength to face any challenge on or off the field.
Do you think your biopic will help increase the love for hockey among youngsters?
Yes, of course. Biopics are a great way to reach a wider audience and bring to light the forgotten stories of our hockey legends. Participation will increase once people appreciate the history of the sport. I hope my story inspires people – the successes I enjoyed and the challenges I faced. I was injured in 2006 but I returned to play as a captain. I want my life story to remind youngsters to never lose sight of their goals and to never give up – not only in sports but in all spheres of their life.
How do you contribute to the development of young players through the Tata Trusts One Million Hockey Legs Partnership?
As a consultant for the Tata Trusts One Million Hockey Legs project, it has been highly motivating for me to teach such an enthusiastic and talented group of youngsters. But more importantly, I believe it’s a great medium by which to impart life skills and achieve all-round development extending beyond sports. The girls and the boys I have interacted with come from the rural districts in Jharkhand and I think hockey could be a great catalyst to bring a positive change in their lives. The tribals there – especially the girls – are strong physically and mentally, and play with a lot of determination and grit. They are used to playing without shoes on the red-hot mud that’s native to their region. And yet they play smilingly and with such enthusiasm that you can’t help but feel good for the future of the sport in India.
How do you think tournaments like Hockey India League helps in the development of youngsters?
The Hockey India League is one of the best leagues in the world right now. As with most sports, we need to nurture talent from a young age to develop great hockey players of the future. We have to invest more in developing talent among junior and upcoming players. Upcoming young players should be promoted much the same way as established leagues – through live promotions, live telecasts, and more. This will help drive awareness and viewership for the sport. And this is essential because, since the beginning of the Hockey Indian League we have seen the rise of so many youngsters in the sport, which ultimately led to India winning the Junior World Cup in 2016.
What are the things that are going right for Indian hockey at the moment? Is it a good time to be a hockey player in India?
It is great to see young talent entering the sport and giving more than 100 percent for every game. I am confident that, in the near future, Indian hockey will again rise to the heights we had achieved during 1928-1980, when we had players like Dhyan Chand and Balbir Singh Senior. They had set high standards and placed the game on a high pedestal that the youngsters today would do well to aim at, right from the time they start playing the game.
Considering India won the junior Hockey World Cup, is it realistic to expect any Olympic medals in the next few editions from the men’s team?
I think it is important that we focus on development teams immediately after the upcoming Junior World Cup. There is a huge gap between the junior and senior teams, and every junior player needs to bridge that gap. The development teams should play with players from the senior and junior teams, and go for tournaments like Sultan Azlan Shah and Asian Hockey Champions Trophy. In my opinion, we should start with junior and senior teams playing each other, and gradually including development teams too.
What are some of the major problems that Indian hockey players face as compared to those from other countries?
Players need to hone their knowledge on what is going on in the world outside hockey. It is important that they should improve their communication skills and be able to articulate their thoughts, especially when speaking to the media and people outside the sports fraternity. All-round growth is essential, not only to develop their self-confidence as players, but also to give back to the communities that have shaped them.
Sandeep Singh spoke to us as a spokesperson for Tata Trusts’ One Million Hockey Legs Program.