During the Fifth Hockey India Sub-Junior National Hockey Championship in Jammu last week, 16-year-old forward Sanjay Kumar taking the drag-flick and 15-year-old forward Maninder Singh stopping the ball for Kumar was a constant sight. In between the shots, the two would discuss another milestone — who would score the highest number of goals for the Chandigarh Olympic Association team.
In the end, Kumar scored 15 goals and Singh 12, helping the team lift its maiden national title in sub-junior category. It was also a pinnacle for Sanjay, who shifted base to Chandigarh Hockey and Football Academy, Sector 42, from Hisar back in 2010. He scored a hat-trick in the final against Hockey Patiala and set up the 6-4 win for Chandigarh.
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“I started hockey as other kids in my village too played hockey. My father Neki Ram has only two acres of land and our monthly income was Rs 10,000. I would ask senior players for good hockey sticks. Somebody told me about trials in the Chandigarh academy, and I was selected. Getting a proper diet and the equipment was a big relief and it meant that I played without any stress,” said Sanjay, who belongs to Dabra village near Hisar and is a student of Government High School, Sector 42.
A forward, Sanjay trained under academy coach Gurminder Singh and scored 10 goals in the National School Games U-14 event at Ranchi in 2012. The youngster then followed the performance with four goals the following year in the same tournament in New Delhi before he netted five goals in the U-17 School National Games at Ranchi in 2014. Last year, too, saw Sanjay playing a vital role with eight goals in Chandigarh’s march into the Nehru Cup semi-finals.
“Sunday’s final was a big one for us and coming after a tough match in the semi-finals, we were a bit nervous. But I got a chance in the second minute and that goal set things up for us. Maninder has been a support in the forward line. I have grown up idolising Indian team’s former drag-flicker Sandeep Singh. After this win, I hope to meet him soon. I would like to seek his valuable tips,” said Sanjay.
Like Sanjay, Maninder shifted base from his village, Bhagarhia, near Sangrur to the Chandigarh Hockey Academy, Sector 42, in 2010 and has been one of the leading scorers for the Chandigarh team. In the 2012 edition of School National Games, the lanky lad scored 13 goals and 10 goals the following year. Nehru Cup saw Singh scoring 13 goals in 2014 and Singh netted seven goals against Himachal Pradesh in the league stage in Jammu.
“Sanjay and I are from the same batch and we practise together. During the sub-junior nationals, I would assist Sanjay in the penalty corners and helped him to score five goals. Yes, we talked about my goal tally too but I am happy that we both could contribute towards the team’s win. I idolise Rupinder Pal and Dharamvir Singh, both of whom are from the academy and are playing in the Indian senior team. We hope to become like them one day,” said Singh, who too is a student of Government High School, Sector 42.