All of 34, Bharat Chhikara, once a part of India’s silver medal-winning team in 2010 Commonwealth Games, now takes pride in guiding the infectious energy of a bunch of rising hockey enthusiasts in Kanonda village near Jhajjar district of Haryana. Chhikara, who not long ago was vital a cog in the Indian hockey squad’s forward line, might not have born under a lucky star as most sought-after Indian hockey players. Any which way, for Chhikara, every day is about hockey and about taking the sport to a place where it has the opportunity to thrive — the grassroots.
Desire to coach
Chhikara was a part of India’s bronze medal-winning team at Asian Games in Guangzhou and is presently playing for his institutional side, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). Brought up in a sports surrounding, Chhikara is regular on the village training grounds, helping a gaggle of children get an inch closer to making a mark in the realm of sports. Ensuring that his compliant pupils abide by a strict training regime, Chhikara trains the youngsters sacrificing his own meagre savings. But how often can we relish a path that Chhikara has trodden upon?
Love for hockey still keeps Chhikara going
The Haryana-based forward player has slipped under the public radar since losing his place in the Indian team after London Olympic Qualifier despite a plethora of good performances for IOC in several domestic tournaments. When asked about the efforts he has to put in to maintain the aggression, he says contentedly, “Nothing can match up to my love for the sport. I am still playing hockey at this age. Hockey is no more the same it used to be some ten years back, so I have to keep playing to be abreast of the developments.”
Choosing a pitch not many can bring to fruition, Chhikara ensures all the kids have access to sports. “I love teaching the kids what I have learnt over the years. The rural kids have a lot of potential. They come by themselves solely to learn about the sport. Very energetic and full of passion. If there is a kid excelling in a particular discipline, we enable proper funding for him on a monthly basis. My motif is to guide them in the right direction, even if it means that I have to shell out money from my savings for them.”
Journey with hockey
It is, however, not too hard to fathom why the state of Haryana dominates the wrestling spectrum more than hockey. Haryana is known to churn out the best wrestlers of the country, I nudge him. He smiles. And then reiterates, “Yes, there are only a few in my village who play hockey. We lack the proper infrastructure. My father loved the sport and hence my journey with hockey started. I started training at the SAI Centre in Sonipat.”
Pillar of support
Hearing the many tales he regaled me with, I ask him whether his vision will see success in the long run. Amused, Chhikara hurls back, “They are very talented. I am working hard for them to be successful. I am certain they will become twice as good as ever. I shouldn’t probably say this. They are still very young. But they have found a good mentor in me, and a proper mentor will only help them to do better in life.”