FROM BEING a part-time teacher in his village in Haryana to donning the cap of the captain of Puneri Paltan’s kabaddi team, Deepak Hooda said his life has been a “roller coaster ride”.
His tryst with kabaddi began when he was 16 years old and had started participating in local tournaments. Initially, he played to earn money and support his sister after they lost their parents at a very young age.
It was while playing for local tournaments that he developed an interest in kabaddi and aspired to be a part of the national team. “I joined the Haryana team and bagged gold at the senior national-level tournament in Patna in 2014. Later, I played for the national team at the 2016 South Asian Games and won the gold, again. The beginning of the Pro-Kabaddi League brought a huge change in the field. Kabaddi players started getting exposure, financial stability and, more importantly, respect. The reason I am being recognised today by fans, is the Pro-Kabaddi League,” he said.
Hooda added that it was his dream to be a part of the national squad and win laurels. “I was thrilled to be a part of the gold-winning team at the 2016 South Asian Games. My biggest achievement, till date, is being a part of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup Squad. I hope that, as the captain of the Puneri Paltan, I would be able to lead my team to victory and add another feather to my cap,” he said.
“The feeling of donning the Indian Jersey was a dream come true for me…,” he added.
Pointing out that while cricket is the most popular sport in the country, he said kabaddi was not far behind. According to studies, Kabaddi was the second most viewed sports in India in 2016, he added.
The Pro-Kabaddi League has repackaged the sport in an appealing way, said Hooda, adding that, today, the audience for kabaddi is double as compared to the previous seasons.
“The Pro-Kabaddi League has given a financial stability to players like me, who hail from humble backgrounds. It has given us a platform to showcase our talent. Our team owner’s motive is to promote kabaddi right from the grassroots levels. The government, too, is actively encouraging the sport and its players, and soon enough we may also be a part of the Olympics,” he added.
Pointing out at the void he feels as his parents are not around, he said, “I had lost my mother when I was 4, and my father passed away in 2013, leaving me as the sole breadwinner in the family. Hence, I had to leave my studies. I became a part-time teacher for two years, to support my sister. That was the time I started playing kabaddi and was drawn towards it. Kabaddi helped me a lot, in channelising my energy and emotions for good.”