Several years ago, an Indian cart-puller in Haryana's Shahbad recognized his daughter's passion for hockey. Last weekend, the world shared his recognition and stood up to salute Rani Rampal - the star player of Indian junior girls team that won a first-ever World Cup bronze medal in Germany (Match report).
Rani was adjudged player of the tournament at Monchengladbach in Germany - a proud moment for an entire nation but especially her father who, despite his limited means, ensured his daughter got the best training possible in their village. "I tell my father not to work anymore. But he insists on working. He doesn't listen to me. I hope I can convince him now," Rani was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
It is this sheer dedication of his that Rani has come to take inspiration from, much like how her village too has helped her excel.
Shahbad has been a solid breeding ground for budding hockey players and Rani's meteoric rise was courtesy her own talent, father's determination and of course, Dronacharya award-winning coach Baldev Singh. It is in his academy that Rani honed her skills.
"I owe everything to him. He gave me a hockey stick and kit as my family could not afford it. He wanted someone like me, who is from a low-income background, to make a name in the sport, and he trained me at the Shahbad Hockey Academy," 18-year-old Rani said. (Also read: We were mentally prepared for shoot-out: Rani)
The Indian team returned home on Tuesday and Rani hopes to carry on with her success. "Our win in Germany proves that Indian hockey is not dead," she had earlier told NDTV (Watch: Full interview).