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Meet Naveen Punia - a Haryanvi pop star whose heart still beats for handball

He has 1 lakh YouTube subscribers and has a web series slated to release soon, but Naveen Punia cannot stop thinking about handball.

Meet Naveen Punia - a Haryanvi pop star whose heart still beats for handball

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 1 Jun 2023 12:40 PM GMT

It is tough not to recognise Naveen Punia if you are a Haryanvi pop culture connoisseur. A singer and performer par excellence, he has made a name for himself in the state.

However, before transitioning into a singer with 1 lakh YouTube subscribers and 39k followers on Instagram, Naveen Punia was one of the best Indian handball players. His goal with less than 10 seconds on the clock against Pakistan at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta is still talked about with awe in the Indian handball circuit.

Even though he is now a superstar off the handball court, Punia still loves handball dearly. He has "Handball" tattooed on his arm.

"People tattoo the names of their girlfriend or spouse, I have tattooed handball," Punia opens up in a conversation with The Bridge.

Naveen Punia is currently using his star power to promote the upcoming inaugural edition of the Premier Handball League (PHL) as the brand ambassador.

Having started playing handball way back in 2004, Punia believes the PHL will help in taking handball to the masses. He states the example of how people in the interior parts of Haryana adore the sport.

"Handball in India started in Haryana. That is where still most of the tournaments with big prize money happen. People flock down from across the state to watch these matches. Farmers leave their work and spend their entire day watching handball," Punia says.

"They love the sport very much. It is a very exciting sport that requires everything from agility to strength. The league will only help in further popularising it," he adds.

Even though he has made it big in life through handball, the early days were not too easy for Naveen Punia. He reveals that he started playing the sport just for the sake of getting a well-paying job.

"I started playing handball just to get a job. But then, slowly I fell in love. There have been times when I have seen kabaddi players and other sportspersons drive a luxurious car like a BMW in front of us and felt bad about our condition. Hopefully, the emergence of PHL will change that," he says.

"There were times when people asked me to switch to kabaddi or wrestling thinking there is no future in handball, but I am happy that I stuck to it," he adds.

Naveen Punia is a junior commanding officer with the Indian Army currently, having entered the defence force via the sports quota.

Though he does not spend as much time as he used to in a 40m x 20m handball court these days, he continues to promote the sport in whatever way he can.

"I have a web series with Randeep Hooda about to release. I will also be going to the Kapil Sharma show to promote handball," Punia smiles.

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