A labourer's 17-year-old son lives his hockey dream, promises more

FrontRampal Singh, the father of Harjeet Singh Puli (right)

Hours after reaching India from Malaysia on Monday, 17-year-old hockey player Harjeet Singh Puli was at the Kurali bus stand in Mohali, waiting for transport to go to his village Niholika. While he waited, Harjeet looked eagerly around, hoping to spot his father, Rampal Singh.

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Rampal is a daily-wage labourer who does odd jobs in the small town near Chandigarh. He is sometimes found at the bus stand, carrying passengers' luggage. Harjeet wanted to show his father his biggest achievement yet: the trophy for the most promising player at the Sultan of Johor Cup under-21 hockey tournament held last week in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

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India won the tournament final on Sunday, and the lanky centre half came away leaving a powerful impression with his stickwork.

"It is never easy to find my father in Kurali. He goes wherever he finds work, sometimes to construction sites. My elder brother Rajwinder Singh also works as a labourer when he's not playing hockey. My sister plays the game too, representing Chandigarh. My family borrowed money to buy me a kit, and one of our relatives pitched in. This trophy will bring joy to all of them," Harjeet said.

Harjeet started playing hockey in 2004 at Kurali's Gopal Hockey Academy before joining Surjeet Hockey Academy in Jalandhar in 2008. He was soon part of the Punjab junior team which won the junior national title in 2012 and 2013. Harjeet made his junior national debut in last year's Sultan of Johor Cup.

"I started as a forward but my coach at the Kurali academy advised me to play as a full back. At Surjit Academy, I often dreamt of becoming a full back like (the former India captain and Olympian) Surjit Singhji. But during the junior nationals last year, coaches Avtar Singh and Gurdev Singh advised me to play in the midfield. Manpreet, the junior skipper, also plays there, and has motivated me constantly," Harjeet said.

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