From being one of the top scorers of the third Khelo India U-21 Games to doing a small-time job, 18-year-old Harpreet Singh, an ace hockey striker, had never dreamed of doing anything like this out of desperation.
Former trainee of the Chandigarh Hockey Academy (CHA) and a Class XII student of the Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 37-D, Harpreet works as a laborer on two shifts to earn Rs800 a day and bring home bread and butter to his family.
He played hockey from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. before attending his first job of the day as a paving and surfacing worker from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Later, he worked as an unloading laborer in the local vegetable market or in local rice mills from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Having played 11 Chandigarh nationals and several local championships, Harpreet is one of the unfortunate talents to miss the eyes of national selectors.
He scored eight goals to remain the top scorer of the Khelo India Games held in Guwahati in January of this year and was also the best player in the 2016 Nehru Cup.
A native of the Mangarh village of Amloh, Fatehgarh Sahib, Harpreet was inducted into the Chandigarh Hockey Academy in 2015.
“I don’t know how I missed the call for a possible Indian junior team. The more surprising the option was not made for the Khelo India scheme. I was expecting some kind of scholarship to develop my hockey skills and support my family. But these were back-to-back losses, “Harpreet said.
His father works in a restaurant, while his mother accompanies him to work as a paver and a surfacing worker. “I work twice a day to make the Rs800. I get help from coaches and friends in Chandigarh, but here I have to work to make money. I don’t know if I’m going to go back to finish class XII. If the hockey academy opens, I’m sure I’m going to practice there. In the pre-Covid days, I was in a similar situation, “he said.
Last hope of a scholarship
The ace striker said he was ready to come back and take part in hockey training to get some sort of scholarship. “Playing for India is always a dream, but performing consistently is what I’m focused on. With a worker’s job, I can’t focus on my game. Mental stress and lack of food are suppressing my body. I just want to come back soon and find a spot in the scholarship scheme. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pass my higher education, ” Harpreet said. “I don’t know what went wrong with him. He’s not designed to work as a laborer. One should have seen him play. He’s normal but required help, or else he’ll end up as a lost soul, “said CHA coach Gurminder Singh.
Harpreet practices hockey from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. before attending his first job of the day as a paving and surfacing worker from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Later, he unloads products from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the vegetable market or in the rice mills.