August 11, 2021 10:17:09 pm
On Wednesday, members of India’s history-making hockey team finally returned home to their villages from Tokyo, to a roaring welcome, greeted by a frenzy and loud cheering by crowds who had gathered along the sides of the roads to catch a glimpse of their Olympic heroes.
Members of India’s men’s bronze medal-winning team — Manpreet Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Varun Kumar, Dilpreet Singh, Simranjit Singh, Gurjant Singh, Hardik Singh, Shamsher Singh, and Krishna Bahadur Pathak — along with women’s hockey team member Gurjeet Kaur landed in Amritsar from Delhi on Wednesday morning. Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh and Harmanpreet Singh belongs to Attari, Butala, Khaliara and Timmowal villages of Amritsar respectively.
Indian hockey team captain, Manpreet Singh, and players Mandeep Singh and Varun Kumar, returned to their homes in Jalandhar’s Mithapur, which is no stranger to producing hockey greats. Hardik Singh returned home to Khusropur village.
Officials from the Punjab government and those from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, and members of various district sports departments, besides thousands of local residents, turned up to show their appreciation for the Olympians as they made their way home. Locals jostled for space near Jalandhar’s Punjab Armed Police Chowk, BSF Chowk, BMC Chowk, and Gurunanak mission Chowk to welcome home their new heroes, raising slogans of ‘Indian Hockey Team Zindabad’ and “Chak De India’.
General secretary of Hockey Punjab and Jalandhar Cantonment MLA, Pargat Singh, along with MLA Sunil Dutti, and Mayor of Municipal Corporation of Amritsar, Karamjit Singh Rintu, welcomed the team back by organising a bhangra performance for them as soon as they landed in Amritsar.
However, the most special reception was reserved for the players by a sea of local residents who had lined up on the roads leading to the villages of the players— dancing, screaming and trying to click selfies with the players.
Garlands, dhols, bhangra, and long convey of cars were spotted everywhere as the vehicles carrying the players slowly crawled their way through the crowd towards their respective villages.
After reaching Jalandhar’s BSF Chowk, the three players were taken in a decorated open jeep with people and fans turning out in numbers and showering them with floral petals.
Manpreet, Mandeep, Varun and Hardik all paid obeisance at Mithapur village gurudwara before proceeding towards village hockey ground and finally to their homes, as as a huge cavalcade of vehicles followed them. The families of the players had gone to Amritsar airport to receive them there.
“Our aim was to play in the final and we put in a lot of hard work too. But, when you play with good teams luck also has a role to play. We played with all our heart, but missed out on some good chances,” said Indian men’s team captain Manpreet. He added that there was no pressure on them for future tournaments, and they were at the moment just focusing on their techniques. “After losing semi-final we had decided that we will not return home without a medal this time. That dedication and hard work paid off finally,’ he said.
Harmanpreet Singh’s return back home to Timmowal, triggered a massive traffic jam outside his village, prompting him to ditch the car and walk. Harmanpreet, who was spotted touching the feet of elders from his village as he entered, was welcomed back by rookie players from the village hockey team dressed in the team’s uniform.
Gurjant Singh, on the other hand, was welcomed by Butala village locals who brought out their dhols to play Punjabi Bolian as the Olympic bronze medal winner walked in to be embraced by his mother.
Meanwhile, Shamsher Singh chose an open jeep to ride towards his border village home of Attari, soaking in the love and affection of people all along, even as in Butala, around 87 km from Attari, his co-player Dilpreet Singh’s mother couldn’t contain her happiness while waiting for her son to finally return home.
Dilpreet’s mother, Sukhwant Kaur said, “It is like a wedding, not just in our home but in the entire village, ever since they won the bronze medal. My Dilpreet is finally coming back home.”
The spotlight was also firmly on women’s hockey player Gurjit Kaur too, as she rode in a car with an open roof amid applause and enthusiasm from people lined up on the road to her village. Gurjit was welcomed with a siropas as she entered Ajnala, the nearest town to her village Miadi Kalan , with people jostling with each other to take selfies with the Olympian.
“I have seen Gurjit coming home like an ordinary girl, hundreds of times before this. But today was special. She had been working hard for this, but people hardly got to know about this or see her efforts. She deserved this welcome. She deserved this respect,” said Baljinder Singh, Gurjit’s uncle.
SGPC felicitates team
Later in the day, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had also organised a special function in front of Information office of Golden Temple, and honoured the Hockey India men’s team with Rs 1 crore for winning the bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics. SGPC president, Bibi Jagir Kaur, handed over the cheque of Rs 5 lakh to each player along with Siropao (robe of honour), a golden model of Sachkhand Sri Harmandar Sahib and a memento. Hockey India team general secretary, Rajinder Singh, and some family members of the hockey players were also honoured on this occasion.
SGPC President also specially felicitated Hockey India women’s team member Gurjeet Kaur and her family members, who had been invited with the men’s team.
The hockey players first paid obeisance at the holiest Sikh shrine and then attended the felicitation ceremony organised by the SGPC.
Thanking the SGPC president for honouring the team, Hockey India men’s team captain, Manpreet Singh, said that the honour received from the Guru’s house will motivate them to perform better.
“With this honour, we have got courage and encouragement to move further. When we won the bronze medal, the entire team had decided that first of all we would pay obeisance at Sachkhand Sri Harmandar Sahib and thank Guru Sahib. Today, with the blessings of the Guru Sahib, we consider ourselves fortunate. The honour given by the SGPC is an honour bestowed on us by the entire community”, said Manpreet Singh.
“The Punjab government has announced Rs 2.51 crore for each hockey player. Similarly, Gurjit Kaur and Reena Khokhar, the two Punjabi players of the Indian team, who made history by finishing fourth in the women’s hockey competitions of the Olympic Games and Kamalpreet Kaur, who secured the sixth position in the disc throw category, would be honoured with Rs 50 lakh each,” said Pargat Singh, who hails from Mithapur village in Jalandhar.
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