India junior star Boby Dhami looks back on a family crisis and his hockey rise | Hockey
With the gold medal hanging from his neck and the Asian Junior Cup trophy in his hands, Boby Singh Dhami delighted his teammates on top of the rostrum in Salalah, Oman earlier this month. He played a vital role in India’s fourth win, scoring six goals including a hat-trick in the semi-finals against South Korea.
Boby picked up a rhythm from where he left off in his last international tournament – the Sultan of Johor Cup in October 2022. The 20-year-old was instrumental in India winning the invitational tournament.
In June 2022, Boby scored a brace in the final against Poland to help India win the inaugural FIH Hockey5s in Switzerland. Since his international debut at the Junior World Cup 2021 in Bhubaneswar, the forward has been enjoying his ability to marry balls, and score or assist.
Life was not smooth growing up in the village of Katiyani, in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district on the border with Nepal. Boby’s father, Shyam Singh, was a taxi driver. The car he was driving crashed when the brakes failed, killing four passengers.
Nine months later, the steering column broke while driving and three passengers died in the accident. A case was filed and Boby’s father was jailed in 2003-04.
With the breadwinner behind bars, Boby’s mother Hema Devi sent her two sons to live with her brother Parkash in Tanakpur in the state. The lack of a good school was also a reason for Boby’s mother to send him to live with his grandparents and maternal uncle when he was in the fifth standard.
“My mother used to play hockey and is an NIS (National Sports Institute) accredited coach. He was the one who suggested I take up the sport. I played in Tanakpur for six months,” says Boby.
Realizing his potential in hockey, Parkash sent Boby to Maharana Pratap Sports College in Dehradun, where he was selected after trials in March 2012. “It was in Dehradun that I learned everything about hockey under the coaches Pankaj Rawat and Suresh Botiyal. I started playing at the district level, then state and then national. I played there for six years,” said Boby, who made his junior debut for India in December 2021.
After passing the 11th standard, Boby decided to focus on hockey, drop out of school and get admitted from the open program. He gave trials at Sports Authority of India (SAI), Sonepat where he was selected for the second time in 2018. It was in Sonepat that he caught the attention of SAI coaches Varun Belwal and Piyush Dubey, who are currently with the senior Indian team. .
Boby began to impress the scouts with his shooting, speed and ability to get into the strike circle in national competitions, especially in the senior games in January 2019, where his SAI team won bronze. He scored seven goals, which helped him to be selected for the 60-member senior national camp. He didn’t make the final cut, out of 33 core prospects.
Set to break into the national squad, Boby played in the junior games for Haryana a month later and his team won bronze. Although he played in the senior games the following year, in February 2020 when Haryana lost in the fourth place, he impressed India’s then high performance director of hockey, David John, who selected him for the junior national camp which was he is a part of it. From the time that. Although Covid-19 struck in March 2020, halting all competitions, Boby finally made his debut during the Junior World Cup 2021 in December 2021 becoming the first male, junior player or ancestor, from Uttarakhand to represent India.
Although Boby continued to climb the hockey ladder, things improved at home when his father, after a 10-year court battle, was released in 2014 when the case was closed. His home’s finances improved when his mother got a job as a private school teacher. His elder brother Sohan joined the Army in 2019.
Boby is also earning. He gets a scholarship playing for the department’s teams and last year he was awarded the Khelo India scholarship. His father Shyam has given up driving and is a contract laborer under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. The family was delighted when he helped India win the Junior Asia Cup and qualify for the junior World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in December.
“My family is very proud of me. I come from a poor family. My mother struggled a lot. We didn’t get all the good amenities or facilities when we were growing up. But now they are very happy. It was a proud moment. To win the Asian Cup. My dream is to win tournaments like the Asian Cup and the World Cup,” said Boby.
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