'To pay for Sanjay Lala, we had to sell 650 dozen samosas'

Sanjay Lala HockeySanjay Lala (left top) in action at the Junior World Cup in Delhi

In a relatively new-look New Zealand side, midfielder Jared Panchia, with 15 international caps, brings the most experience. And while he marshals the center line, mother Ramila Panchia plays her part in the stands at the National stadium. Ramila may not be the most enthusiastic of New Zealand's hockey supporters at the Junior World Cup but she surely must come close. Sitting amidst a group of Kiwi parents at Delhi's National Stadium, Panchia, wearing her All black jersey and the silver fern emblazoned cap, is unflaggingly behind her team.

The Panchia's are a hockey family. Jared's father Pete was a regular member of the Papatoetoe based Southern club where he met Ramila. While neither parent played internationally, their children have excelled. Jared's brother Arun has over a hundred international caps and was a standby to the Olympic squad.

The Panchia's trace their roots to Gujarat although both Ramila and Pete were born and raised in New Zealand. Jared isn't the only player with Gujarati heritage in the squad. Defender Sanjay Lala's feisty grandmother Lakshmi, also in All Blacks kit, was born in Navsari before emigrating in the 1950s.

Indeed Panchia and Lala follow in a long tradition of Indian origin players representing New Zealand beginning with Ramesh Patel's selection in the squad which won gold at the 1976 Olympics. In that aspect the community's contribution to New Zealand hockey is similar to other countries with Indian immigrants like Canada, UK and Malaysia. But in contrast to Canada and the UK where the Indian-origin players have Punjabi roots, it's mostly those with Gujarati ancestry who play the game in New Zealand.

In this context Sanjay's grandmother Lakshmi seems taken aback on being told of the current fate of the game in Gujarat — they lost 30-0 to Punjab at the Nationals this year. "I don't know why people in Gujarat aren't well known for sports. Sanjay's grandfather Raman played a lot of hockey but mostly at the club level," she says. One of the teams Raman played against, recalls Lakshmi, was a a touring side from India comprising several Olympians called the Indian Wanderers.

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