A few years back, Harjeet Singh thought of quitting hockey due to the hardships his family was facing financing his dream. While deciding to make the sport his career in 2004, Harjeet Singh, son of a truck driver from Kurali in Mohali district of Punjab, never expected that he would be showered with money, even though hockey is India’s national sport.
Hockey, however, changed his life and that of his family too. “My father is a truck driver and does whatever work he finds. When I first told my mother I wanted to play hockey, she was aghast. But once I started doing well, nobody stopped me. My family was in a lot of financial difficulty, but God has helped us and things are better now.”
He got his first break a couple of years back, when he was selected by Delhi Waveriders to play in the Hockey India League. But what made the real difference to Harjeet and his family is the Rs 10 lakh cash award he received on being adjudged ‘Jugraj Singh Upcoming Player of the Year (Men – 21)’ this March.
“It’s the biggest-ever cheque of my life. I find it a big motivation and now I am putting extra efforts in my game,” Harjeet told HT on Thursday, soon after being named skipper of India under-21 team for the upcoming Junior Men’s World Cup, starting here on December 8.
Though the 20-year-old midfielder believes money has changed his outlook towards the game, he is currently not focusing on monetary rewards it but rather on leading India to glory. “I know that more success in the game will bring more money, and to me that’s really important as I have seen the worst financial days of my life, for it was quite difficult for me to continue to pursue my passion.”
“But I know a podium finish at this World Cup will make a big difference to everyone in the team, and I believe that playing as a strong unit would help us achieve our goal,” said Harjeet, who led India to victory against reigning world junior champions Germany in the final of the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in Valencia, Spain, last month.
Captaincy, no pressure
Harjeet, who led the team in Valencia too, says he will not be bogged down by the pressure of captaining the team in a mega event.
“Captaincy isn’t pressure for me as I know my job well and everybody is a leader of his own in the team. We have separate plans for different teams, but currently we are focussing on our training and not thinking of anything else.”
He, however, admitted that his experience of playing with seniors at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament this year has helped him tackle his responsibilities better. Harjeet was also the part of the Indian senior men’s team that won the silver medal at the FIH Champions Trophy in
London this year where he filled in for stalwart Indian midfielder Sardar Singh.
“You always learn something while playing alongside your seniors. My dream is to play for India at the Tokyo Olympics, but for now I am focused on the upcoming event,” said Harjeet.