Sandeep Singh, the ace hockey player and Arjuna awardee, is no stranger to struggle. Wounded critically during the prime of his career, it was doubtful if he would ever play hockey again.
However, not only did he bounce back against all the odds, but he also commandeered the Indian team to new heights, and his story shall soon be out for the world to see, in the upcoming movie ‘Soorma’.
Singh had a highly successful professional hockey career, with stints in Australia, and England, and also holds a DSP rank with the Haryana Police.
In addition to this, Singh is also a consultant with Tata Trusts and its associate organization Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI). He works along with former Olympians to promote grassroots hockey and nurture talent from a young age in Jharkhand. Using hockey, he is uplifting underprivileged kids who are now focused on just one goal—the netted one they need to score in.
The program by Tata Trusts-CInI aims to promote holistic development among the children. Speaking to The Better India, Neelam Barberdesai, the Head of Sports, said that the initial need was to identify a sport that had roots in Jharkhand.
Hockey was a natural choice as the region has given us many champion hockey players. Children in the villages play hockey barefoot, on mud grounds with sticks made of tree branches—the game is ingrained in their way of life.
She goes on to speak of the program also having an educational angle to it. Education and sports, she says, is the key to develop leaders who could make a livelihood while following their passion, and gaining a world-class education.
There are a lot of young girls who have joined the program as well. Barberdesai says that initially, there were challenges as parents were not too keen about their daughters joining the program for security reasons and were also worried about their menstrual hygiene.
However, the academy has taken adequate care. Girls have a kit with sanitation necessities and essentials. Reluctant at first, these girls had a complete change in attitude, once the program took off.
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Barberdesai says that the ultimate aim is to improve the level of hockey being played in the state and the country and contribute to a big way to the professionalization of the sport in India.
Singh himself is involved with overseeing the development of the kids, coaching the trainers, which they enthusiastically apply while training their students.
It seems like almost yesterday that Singh was staring at a bleak future, because of a terrible incident that took place on August 26, 2006. He was on the Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi Express, when a Railway Protection Force jawan accidentally shot him. The bullet fractured his rib, damaged his spine, kidneys and liver. Doctors proclaimed that it would be next to impossible to play again.
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Imagine, being wheelchair-bound, losing 40% of your body weight, and not being able to stand. It was a rough, long road to recovery, but Singh made an incredible comeback. ‘Soorma’ highlights his struggle.
In this video, Singh speaks of the program and the training. He feels that these kids are fortunate to get this infrastructure and this exposure, something that was missing when he was a youngster.
Singh speaks optimistically of his students, saying that if they take the sport seriously, they can use it to make a name, achieve their dream, and explore the world.
Well, it only seems fitting that the biopic ‘Soorma’ is based on this real-life hero!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)