Keegan Pereira’s father couldn’t make it to the Indian national squad, but he always dreamt of glory for his son.
When Sukhwinder Singh — Gabbar Singh to his teammates — held the hockey stick for the first time, he only had one goal; to playing the Olympics and the World Cup.
Like his father, Surjit Singh Deol, who represented Kenya in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, Ranjeev always wanted to be an Olympian.
Besides sharing a common goal — to excel in hockey — all three have one more thing in common: They are all part of the ‘Maples Leaf’ brigade. Keegan (18), Gabbar (31) and Ranjeev Deol (33) are Indian origin players who are part of the 18-member Canada team, which arrived here for the World Cup on February 22.
Keegan, who would be playing as a senior outside Canada for the first time, was born in Mumbai and developed a fondness for the sport when he was barely four. But by the time he could graduate to competitive hockey in India, his family migrated to Canada in 1999.
It was in Toronto that he realised his father’s dream. Keegan made his international debut in the Junior Pan-American Championship in 2008 and, last year, was picked for the seven-match home Test series against India.
“My father has been calling his friends in India non-stop, informing them about my selection in the Canadian team,” said Keegan, a student of University of Victoria. Keegan’s father, Reginal Pereira, had represented Maharashtra in the national championships and played for Mahindra Club along with greats like Dhanraj Pillay and Joaquim Carvalho.
Gabbar, who represented Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, migrated to the country in 1997 and became a citizen four years back.
“I went to Canada with some friends on holiday…while the others returned, I stayed back. Initially, it was a fight for survival and hockey didn’t feature in my wildest dreams.
“In 2001, the Canadian national coach offered to get me citizenship with the rider that I would play for the country. I started playing but still didn’t get the citizenship,” said Gabbar, who had won gold for India in the Asian School Hockey Championship in 1994.
“I finally got the citizenship in 2006 and two years later, I realised my dream of playing in the Olympics,” said Gabbar, who hails from Gurdaspur.
Deol, who has donned the Canadian colours more than 170 times, hails from a hockey family. Hockey flows in his blood as his father, Sukhwinder Singh, represented Kenyan in the sixties. The family migrated to Canada in 1993.