Updated: August 6, 2021 8:48:10 am
Anxious moments spent glued to the television gave way to ecstatic celebrations Thursday morning in Jalandhar’s Mithapur and Khusropur, the villages of four players including the captain of the Indian men’s hockey team, as it beat Germany in the Tokyo Olympics and bagged a bronze medal.
This is India’s first hockey medal in over four decades.
Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh and players Mandeep Singh and Varun Kumar hail from Mithapur, which is no stranger to producing hockey greats. Former Indian team captain Pargat Singh, now Congress MLA from Jalandhar Cantonment, is from the same village.
Hardik Singh, who scored the crucial goal on Thursday, is from Khusropur village. Though Hardik’s family was in Batala where his father, Superintendent of Police (SP) Virenderpreet Singh is currently posted, villagers left no stone unturned to celebrate the victory of the “village’s son”.
In Mithapur, Mandeep’s father Ravinder Singh beat the dhol as the villagers burst crackers and handed out sweets. Manpreet and Mandeep’s mothers were seen dancing alongwith hockey sticks. The celebrations went on for hours.
The Indian captain’s mother teared up and said: “Over 12 years of his hard work has paid off today. I had told him to bring gold but I am happy that our team got a medal. My happiness has no limit today. When they lost in the semi-final my health deteriorated but I could muster the courage today to watch the match and see them win,” said Manjit Kaur, adding: “Manpreet called me after the win but he could not speak much as he turned emotional. When the team was behind at the start, I was quite scared, but I did not stop watching as I had faith in them.”
Varun’s father Brahma Nanad, who used to be a truck driver, said his son had seen a lot of tough days during his hockey career.
The families of the three players gathered and went to the village gurdwara to pay obeisance.
“My heart was beating fast throughout the match but it went out of control in the last few seconds. I can never forget this moment in my lifetime,” said SP Virenderpreet Singh, who himself was a hockey player.
The SP said that on Wednesday evening, they had gone to the Golden Temple to pray for the Indian team. “When the victory ceremony will be held, the Indian flag will be hoisted, which will be a proud moment for every Indian,” he added.
Hardik’s mother said: “He was very upset after the semi-final. I told him to turn this defeat into victory in the next match and they did it. I had stopped watching the match when India was behind in the beginning and went to another room where I started praying and then my younger son came at the end of the match and told me they had won.”
Hardik’s grandfather was also a hockey player. Now, his younger brother is also following in their footsteps. While his mother is planning to gift him a ring with the Olympics logo, his brother wants to imprint the same on his car.
Villagers spent the entire day at Manpreet’s home to catch every glimpse of the celebrations. “Hockey is in our blood. Jalandhar’s Sansarpur village has produced 13 Olympians, 16 international and 150 national players. Now Mithapur and Khursropur have also joined the list,” said Harbhupinderjit Singh Samra, president and main founder of the ‘Rural Hockey Development Society’, under which Pendu Hockey League (PHL) matches are organised for children with no such means, and who are playing at inter-school, inter-districts, state and national-level games.
“It is a huge victory, but at the same time it is the time to wake up because Punjab does not have sufficient number of astro turfs to produce more international-level players while we have a huge potential of such players in our villages. Sansarpur has a small hockey ground with astro turf. At least dozens of such grounds are needed in Jalandhar where a large number of budding hockey players are playing at the village level hockey academies with lot of dedication,” he further said, adding: “If we provide our buddying players with grounds of international standards, winning in the Olympics will be a possibility for many more of them.”