The young Indian midfielder comes from a small village in Uttar Pradesh.

The Indian men’s hockey team attacking midfielder Rajkumar Pal made a dream debut earlier this year. He was given an opportunity by chief coach Graham Reid to showcase his potential against the world champions Belgium at the FIH Hockey Pro League and the young lad from Uttar Pradesh’s Karampur village did not disappoint.

Now a regular feature in the Indian core probable group, Rajkumar Pal says he is fortunate to receive early recognition. He expressed, “I feel very fortunate to get recognized early in my career. I feel the Hockey India Senior National Championships in 2018 and 2019 was a crucial moment in my career. Good performances there helped me get selected for the senior national camp.”

Rajkumar Pal added that hockey has given him a new lease of life. He said, “For young boys from small villages like where I come from, there are very few opportunities to make a living or find the right career path. I am fortunate I was encouraged to play a sport that is governed by a professionally run federation which ensures talent is recognized and nurtured.”

He further added that youngsters who aspire to make the Indian team must take the annual national championships seriously. The 22-year-old stated, “Youngsters who want to get selected for the national camp must take the annual national championships seriously and make use of the opportunity to do well for your team. Hardwork never goes unnoticed.”

Speaking about his experience over the past six months, Rajkumar Pal feels that the team management’s efforts to keep the players motivated through the lockdown was extremely important.

He explained, “With no activities at all, it was very difficult to feel motivated but the team management, especially chief coach and scientific advisor ensured we were kept occupied with online activities, English classes and a regular fitness regime. They also ensured we were not fatigued mentally.”

With a well-defined role in the squad now, Rajkumar says his aim is to remain a regular feature in the national team. The midfielder said, “My aim now is to prove my potential in every single session, in every single opportunity I get. We have a very strong pool of players and there is a healthy internal competition to make the final squad.”

“I have received great support from the senior players who encourage me to play to my potential. I look forward to build on this momentum,” he concluded.