Rickshaw puller’s son, local icon: Mintu Sardar gives Basirhat a ‘new IPL’ to follow
Locals rejoiced as Mintu Sardar rose from a life of poverty to become an India handball player. But they rarely got to see him on TV. The PHL is finally solving that problem.
Basirhat: It is a big day in the village of Swarupnagar, less than 10km as the crow flies from the Bangladesh border. The most successful son of the village will be shown on TV as the inaugural Premier Handball League (PHL) begins on Thursday.
When Mintu Sardar, the son of rickshaw puller Abul Hossain Sardar and MNREGA worker Layla Bibi, went abroad for the first time as an India U18 handball player, locals had been amazed that someone from their village could do such a thing.
“Everyone in the village is very proud of Mintu. We all witnessed his struggles, how his father had to pawn off his land to finance his career. We are excited that we will be able to see him play on the same channel which was showing the IPL just a few days ago,” said Arabul Shaikh, the PT teacher in Mintu’s school who got him into the sport.
Even as Mintu went from strength to strength in his handball career over the years, one regret remained. Rarely were his matches available to his friends and family.
That will now change. There will be a crowd at his house when Mintu’s Delhi Panzers will be live on Sports 18 and Jio Cinema this evening.
“There weren’t any notable handball players from Bengal before me, there is no culture of the sport…It’s a very competitive sport, once it starts on TV everyone will be captivated by it,” said Mintu, who says he would have been working in a shop in his village had he not made it as an athlete.
Having been employed in the Indian Navy for the last five years on the strength of his handball credentials, Mintu’s earnings have lifted his family’s economic condition.
“After my job in 2019, we were able to reclaim the land that my father had pawned off. Handball has given me a life. Now I fear the day I have to leave the sport,” he said.
Now an India international who was part of the Asian Games trials recently, Mintu often thinks back to the days of struggle in remote Swarupnagar.
“The journey to Kolkata’s SAI centre by train took me 3 hours. I used to quickly eat something in the morning and then go without eating till I returned home at night. There wasn’t a lot of money. That has become better since my job,” he said.
Not much has changed in Swarupnagar. An aspiring athlete still needs to make a 80-km journey to train at the SAI centre in Kolkata.
But as the locals sit with their chop muri around the TV set to watch the PHL on Thursday, they will know that one of their own made it to the big leagues.