Players In Women Hockey Team India: The real-life Chak De girls are off to the semis and how! People think that the pressure is relentless on the players just in the final few minutes of the game. However, these fearless women proved that the process of breaking stereotypes and overcoming societal barriers is much tougher.
Meet the women’s hockey team aiming for more glory when it takes on mighty Argentina in the semifinals of the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Rampal’s story isn’t exactly a fairytale. Daughter of a cart-puller father and housemaid mother, Rampal had battled extreme poverty growing up in Haryana’s Shahabad, but her talent and determination took her to the highest spot in Indian sport when she was awarded the Khel Ratna last year. She said she had only one dream – winning an Olympics medal. Now the 26-year-old is just one victory away from achieving her dream.
Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur hails from a farming family in the Miadi Kalan village in Amritsar, Punjab, and plays at the position of a defender in the team. Despite their background, Kaur’s parents sent their daughters to a private school over 13 km away in Ajnala to receive a good education. She was later sent to a boarding school in Kairon and it was here where the girl discovered her passion for hockey. Kaur became the most successful goal-scorer in the 2018 Hockey World Cup with 8 goals. Read more here.
Getting a free shoe was Goyal’s motivation to pick up the hockey stick when she was in school in Sonepat, Haryana. The teenager took up the sport as it was an escape that came with two meals. This kept her away from her reportedly alcoholic father who would abuse her mother, who used to work in a foam factory and try and do some odd jobs to provide for the family. The first-time Olympian worked alongside her mother in a cycle factory, earning 5 bucks to fix one spoke of a wheel. The 24-year-old made her debut for the national team at the age of 18 and has won the silver medal at the Asian Games and has been conferred the Hockey India Midfielder of the Year Award in 2018.
Lalremsiami struggled her way to become the first Indian woman to win the FIH Rising Player award in 2019. Her family encouraged her to move to New Delhi from Mizoram to get a better life. “Seeing my interest in the sport, my father sent me to the Thenzawl Hockey Training centre where I had spent five years. I was selected by the National Hockey Academy in New Delhi in 2016 and the same year I got to play for the U-18 team in the Asia Cup,” she told SheThePeople. The Mizo forward has been with the senior team for just over two years with little understanding of English and Hindi, communicating with the players and the coaches became a hardship. However, the 20-year-old, with the help of then-coach Harendra Singh and skipper Rani Rampal, overcame the barriers.
The goalkeeper joined the Haryana government’s hockey nursery at Sirsa in2013 under coach Sunder Singh Kharab and she would often ferry her equipment on Haryana Roadways buses from her village Jodhka. Now she is the team’s vice-captain and one of the heroes of Monday’s quarter-final. Punia was inspired to play hockey by her grandfather, but it wasn’t till her father spent a good sum of money on a new kit that she started to take the game seriously.
In April this year, Katariya’s father had passed away in Haridwar due to COVID-related complications. She made the most difficult decision ever and skipped the funeral of her father, who had stood by her side through all the societal pressures to pursue her passion. At this year’s Olympics, she became the only Indian woman to score a hat-trick. Growing up in Haridwar, locals always discouraged her saying “she’s a girl, don’t let her step outside”.
Nikki Pradhan hails from an area notorious for being Naxal stronghold. Pradhan has spoken about how her family is riddled with financial troubles. Her elder sister, who also played hockey, had worked as a labourer to purchase a hockey stick. Pradhan got her first pair of hockey shoes and a stick after moving to the academy in Ranchi in 2006.
The Sonipat resident, who is the daughter of a tailor and a factory worker, made her international debut only two years ago. Supported by her father Warsi took up the sport. She broke into the Indian team in 2018. She is among the youngsters making her Olympic debut this year.
Chanu, who had led the team as the skipper in Rio Games, took up the sport at the age of 11 when her uncle introduced took her to the field near their house. In 2008, she made her debut in the junior team. She helped India win the bronze medal at the 2008 Women’s Hockey Junior Asia Cup, held in Kuala Lumpur. The player from Manipur had previously worked as a ticket checker.
Deep Grace Ekka
This athlete comes from a family of hockey enthusiasts. Her older brother Dinesh is a former Indian goalkeeper and Deep Grace Ekka followed in his footsteps as she always wanted to be a goalkeeper but was pushed to play as a defender by Dinesh and her uncle, also a goalkeeper. Ekka became the fastest Indian to reach the 200-cap mark in 2019. The 27-year old is now playing at her second Olympics.
Tete a midfielder from Hesal in Jharkhand, worked on the family’s farm. She bought herself a stick with her own money. At 19, Salima Tete is the youngest member of the side. She also led the team to silver at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
The Haryana-based athlete followed in her father’s footsteps and started her career with handball. One day the handball coach at her school suddenly stopped appearing in practice. On her mother’s insistence, she decided to try her hand at hockey and her speed caught everybody’s attention. Duhan was named captain of the team that won bronze at the U-18 Asian Cup in 2016.
Coming from Shahbad, Haryana, Kaur, noticeable on the field for her striking white headband, is one of eight players in the team who also competed at the 2016 Olympics. She has been one of India’s most powerful forwards and a key player of several path-breaking performances, starting with the 2013 Junior World Cup bronze medal.
Malik’s father Takdeer Singh Malik, an ASI with the Chandigarh Police, liked wrestling, but Malik decided to take up hockey. Coming from a village in the Sonepat district, the Indian Railways employee started her hockey training at a government school in Chandigarh. She helped the national team win the Asia Cup in 2018. She was part of the team that also won bronze and silver medals at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games respectively.
Sharmila Devi decided to take up the sport after she accompanied her grandfather, a former national level player, to a local ground. She made her international debut during a Tokyo Olympic Test Event in 2019.
Hailing from Kurukshetra, Haryana, Navjot Kaur was eight when her father, a mechanic who wanted at least one of his children in sports, urged her to play hockey. She started training in 2003. She was part of the team that made it to the 2016 Rio Games and the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2018.
Feature Image Credit: Associated Press