New Delhi: Hockey happened to Boby Singh Dhami by “accident”, for he wouldn’t have been a junior India player had it not been for a road mishap involving his father when he was just 10.
Years later, having faced the trials and tribulations that followed the accident which killed four passengers but turned out to be a close shave for his then driver father Shyam Singh Dhami, Boby has helped India win the Junior Asia Cup 2023.
He feels the triumph has not only set him up for bigger things in his career but it has also reinstated his belief in the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” During his journey to earning a place in the Indian team, the challenges were many, including being slapped with lawsuits by families of the deceased.
The tragic incident forced his mother to send him to live with his maternal uncle in Tanakpur as the family was finding it difficult to make ends meet.
It was in Tanakpur that Boby developed a liking for the game while accompanying his maternal uncle Prakash, a former national-level player-turned coach, to the ground every day. “When my family was in difficulties after my father’s accident, we were left with no money. My parents could not even afford my education and my mother decided to send me away to my uncle’s home,” Boby recollected.
“As a child, it was obviously difficult to deal with that situation but looking back now, I realise, if that accident had never happened then I would have probably never played hockey.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he added.
A naturally-gifted forward, Boby made swift progress in the game and by 16, he was selected for the SAI Centre in Sonepat.
In 2019, Boby broke into Hockey India’s Junior National Program and in 2021, he was picked in the junior Indian team as an alternate player for the Junior World Cup hosted by Bhubaneswar.
An injury to Maninder Singh, considered as the next big thing in Indian hockey then, gave Boby a break in the main team for the Junior World Cup. “I think I have been quite fortunate in my career. Maninder’s injury got me into the playing XI for the Junior World Cup,” he said.
“Though we finished fourth and were quite disappointed, the loss in the bronze medal match only encouraged us to perform better in the coming days. We got tougher mentally and told ourselves that we would not lose any major tournament thereafter.” Having won the recent men’s Junior Asia Cup in Oman by beating arch-rivals Pakistan in the final, Boby believes Indian colts are poised for bigger feats.
“We saw the kind of respect and honour the senior team received after their bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. That really motivated us. We knew winning big tournaments will see us get similar respect and we have.
“Yesterday, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi mentioned our victory in Mann Ki Baat. The team is overwhelmed with the appreciation we have received over the past few weeks and has now made us all the more determined to do well in the Junior World Cup in Malaysia,” he said.
The Junior World Cup will be held in Malaysia from December 5 to 16.