From getting a goat as a trophy in her village to bagging medals and cash prizes, the fledgling career of junior India hockey goalkeeper Bigan Soy has a lot of grind and toil before she could secure her spot at the highest level.
Beginning her tryst with hockey as any other tribal girl or boy at Bandgao in Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district as a 12-year-old, Soy's first tasted victory when she won a local 'Khashi' tournament (a goat for the winning team) before she elevated to bigger meets.
"During picnics we all had it," Soy said sheepishly when asked whether she participated in the feast after winning the 'Khashi' tournaments -- traditionally a popular one in villages, and many national and international players rose playing those tournaments.
"I began playing with a bamboo stick, played Khashi tournaments, won a couple of goats before being selected for hockey training and got admitted to Bariatu School, Ranchi," the BA student recalled after being felicitated here today for her stupendous show in the Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
"I am extremely happy as I never expected that such a felicitation was awaiting me when I used to play with bamboo sticks," Soy said after Jharkhand government gave her Rs 5 lakh on Friday and Hockey Jharkhand rewarding her with Rs 51,000 today for helping India win the bronze medal in the Women's Junior World Cup.
A member of the Indian team that won the country's first ever bronze medal in the Junior Women's Hockey World Cup beating England 3-2 via penalties on August 4, the 20-year-old said had she continued playing as a forward she would not have seen glory.
"I started my career as a forward, and would never have seen this day had I continued in that position," said Soy, who comes from a peasant background and the second among her three siblings.
"But thanks to my coach who advised that I am better suited as goalkeeper, and I will have good chances of playing at higher level as goalkeeper. I readily agreed, and the decision turned out what you see today," added Soy, now being trained at the Sports Authority of India, Jharkhand.
On how she felt sitting padded up on the sidelines throughout the tournament in Germany, Soy attributed such situations to team games.
"Somewhat!" she said when asked how she felt to sit out the whole tournament before the welcome opportunity came.
"But not much, because in a team game it happens. And when my opportunity came, I just focused on the ball to thwart its direction away from the goalpost.
"The opponents tried to put psychological pressure on me in different ways, including shouting, but such things happen and my focus was unwavering," she said while reliving the 20 crucial minutes of her life that fetched bronze to her team.
Crediting regular goalkeeper Ningombam of Manipur for helping the team bringing that far, Soy said, "We have a good understanding. While she is better in game situation, I am considered better in shootouts."
"I will work harder to improve myself in game situations as well," Soy added.