By Arijit Das
Rani Rampal, the captain of the Indian Women’s Hockey Team. Yes, this is the name that every Indian is aware of today. While trying to know this daughter of a cart puller and a maid, we tried to go back to her village Shahabad Markanda in Kurukshetra.
In Kurukshetra, Rampal is known for her undying passion and dedication towards hockey. It is said that during her childhood, her family couldn’t even afford her a new “hockey stick”. But this couldn’t stop her from playing. She picked up a broken stick and started practising.
At a nearby academy, Rani would spend hours watching the game. Her early years were marked by economic hardship; her family had to contend with power cuts, slept starving frequently, and during rains, their home was frequently flooded.
The veteran striker, who captained Team India at the 2017 Women’s Asia Cup and won silver at the 2018 Asian Games, also revealed that the academy’s coach would reject her every day, telling her, “You aren’t strong enough to pull through a practice session,” and that this discouragement eventually led the aspiring hockey star to begin practising with a broken hockey stick. She used to run in her ‘salwar kameez’. This kind of dedication attracted her coach and finally, he was convinced to train her.
In the initial days, her family was not happy to see their daughter playing in a ‘short skirt’. However, with time, they realized her passion for the game. Her coach even supported her with kits and hockey shoes. One incident which is shared by Rampal herself, states that once she won INR 500 in a tournament and later when she handed that money to her father, they realized that her father has never seen so much money around. She promised her family that one day she will buy a home for them.
In 2010, Rampal was inducted into the national team for World Cup as the youngest player. She was only 15 years old at the time. The players of the future generation should take inspiration from a talent of this stature. Sports should not be gender-biased. Both men and women players must keep up her handwork as an example. Today, Rani Rampal is not only an example to the nation but also an icon at the international level.
India’s comeback in Hockey after 36 long years in the Rio Olympics in 2016 was somehow possible for her efficient contribution towards the game. Initially, her little knowledge about the outer world couldn’t make her realise how big an event the ‘Olympics’ is. Later in 2008, when she saw her fellow plays crying while they missed a spot in Beijing Olympics, she slowly started realizing the importance of playing in the Olympics. Coming from a humble background, Rani Rampal loves to keep herself simple on one hand and on the other hand, she wants to do something big for the aspiring players from the underprivileged mass. In one of her interviews she shares, “Now I’m at such a place that I can give back to the society, to the kids in my hometown of Shahbad-Markanda, and I want to continue making a difference in the lives of many children.”
After upsetting three-time winners Australia by a solitary goal, the Indian women’s hockey team qualified for the semifinals for the first time. Gurjit Kaur, a drag-flicker, scored the game-winning goal in the 22nd minute from a penalty corner for India. The team led by Rani Rampal will next face the Argentinian team in the semis that defeated Germany 3-0 in the previous quarterfinals match.
There are many strange incidents that she has overcome. Being from a needy family it was not possible for her to carry 400 ml of milk every day for training. But she continued mixing water with 200 ml of milk which her family could provide. She is not just a sports icon but also a great example of an Indian daughter who knows how to sacrifice.
Today, India is proud of her. The nation salutes her willpower. There may be many more like Rani who are still waiting for their turn to come. It’s our responsibility to find them out and bring them to the limelight.
About the author
Arijit Das is a Broadcast Expert. He had been associated with the live Production of IPL matches and many sports events across the globe.