For 18-year-old Gagandeep Singh, a product of the same academy, it was a chance to meet two people he has always admired. “I wanted to meet Dharamvir and Rupinderpal as they were our seniors in the Chandigarh Hockey and Football Academy. They went to Australia as members of the Indian senior hockey team and meeting them boosted my confidence. The Sultan Johar Cup was my first International tournament and the second spot was something that we are proud of. It was my first international tournament and playing against teams like Australia, Germany and Malaysia made us believe that we are no less than them. We defeated Australia and Germany in the league stage and the final was a close one,” shared Gagandeep, who belongs to Bhadal Thuha village near Sirhind.
Having made his debut with the junior Indian team in Malaysia earlier this week, Singh believes that there is more to come and wants to cement his place in the team.
The lanky lad started playing hockey at his village under coach Rajinder Singh Tiwana and joined the Chandigarh Hockey and Football Academy in 2006. He soon made his way into the Chandigarh sub-junior and junior teams. The fullback was a part of the Chandigarh team, which won gold in the U-17 category in the 2009 National School Games and also played a vital role in Chandigarh’s title win in the U-19 category in 2011. Earlier this year, Gagandeep opted to play for Haryana and the team claimed a bronze in the junior nationals held in Lucknow.
“In our village, coach Tiwana got us enrolled at the academy. Initially we played at the home ground and later we went for the trials at the Chandigarh Hockey and Football Academy. When I got selected, it was a a big opportunity for a young player like me. I trained under renowned coach Bajwa for an year and when he died, it was emotional moment for us. He was a father figure for most of us. Later Gurvinder sir taught us and and he was a guiding force for me. I still cherish the medals which we won during my stay at the Chandigarh Hockey and Football Academy. We, however, want international players of the academy to be given job opportunities in Chandigarh,” Gagandeep, who scored a goal against Malaysia in the Sultan Johar Cup, said.
The youngster still spends time in Chandigarh and visits the academy in his free time. “Gagandeep is a talent who has done well at the junior circuit. Malaysia was his first international tournament and he did well in the tour. Such exposure will definitely lift his game. After Dharamvir and Rupinder, he is one talent to watch and I am sure he will soon break into the senior team,” said coach Gurvinder.