India begin their campaign on 24 November at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup.

Midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad, who will be leading the India Men’s Junior Hockey team at the upcoming FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021, reflected upon the start of his journey in a recent conversation on the Hockey India podcast ‘Hockey Te Charcha’. 

The 21-year-old young gun who was part of India’s historic bronze medal-winning campaign at the Tokyo Olympics recalled how he had to battle injuries early on in his career.

“In 2013, in one of the small tournaments in my village in Itarsi district, Madhya Pradesh, Ashok Dhyan Chand came as the chief guest. He picked me from there and gave me an opportunity to come to the academy. I was shocked that such a big player is calling me to his academy. I could not believe it,” Vivek Sagar Prasad revealed.

“Two years later, I came to India Junior National Camp. But unfortunately, I was not selected in the 33-man core group. A week later, when I went back to the academy, I suffered a major injury as my collar bone broke. After the operation, it took me around five months to recover. After I returned, I received another injury, and it was serious. The doctor told my parents that there is very little chance of my recovery. But I kept my focus on my recovery, and my family and friends helped me at that time,” he added.

In 2017, Vivek Sagar Prasad led India Men’s Junior team as captain for the first time at the Sultan of Johor Cup tournament in Malaysia, where India finished in the third position. Vivek was named the ‘Young Player of the Tournament’ for his consistent performances. He received a call-up to India Men’s Senior Team, and now, after performing at the highest level against some of the best teams in the world in the past three years, the young hockey star will be leading India’s junior team once again at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup as they look to defend the title in Bhubaneswar.

Speaking on the junior team’s improvement since he first played with them in 2017, Vivek Sagar Prasad particularly highlighted the team’s bonding. “The team performed better in 2018 and 2019, but in 2020, the Covid period was a period of struggle for all. But the players remained and trained together with the aim to win the title (in Bhubaneswar), and hence the unity and the bond between them has improved a lot. The structure of the team has also improved,” he said.

Vivek Sagar Prasad also said that some of the players have also improved, particularly naming Maninder Singh, Rahul Rajbar, and Sanjay as some of the key players in the team. “I hope and I believe we will do well in this tournament as well,” he concluded.

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