Naveen Deshwal sets his name in stone as a PHL legend
Hailing from a hotbed of handball players, Naveen Deshwal started playing with a sole intention of playing at the national level. Now he has the glitz of the PHL.
The inaugural season of the Premier Handball League (PHL) has been all about setting up the foundation stone for a handball revolution in the country. And when it comes to players setting their names in stone as the ones who dominated the first season, goalkeeper Naveen Deshwal tops the list.
One of the brightest stars in Maharastra Ironmen's run into the semifinals, the 24-year-old's acrobatic saves have meant that his team topped the double round-robin league stage with 7 wins in 10 matches.
Hailing from Haryana - a hotbed for handball players, Naveen Deshwal started playing the sport with a sole intention of playing at the national level.
"When I was in school, whenever someone won a national medal, they used to enjoy a lot of respect and popularity. At that point, I aspired to become at least a national-level player. Later, I realized that we can achieve great heights beyond the nationals too," he told The Bridge.
The PHL, a televised handball league which showcases the niche sports in households across India, has given all practitioners of the sport something larger to strive for.
What he termed as the most challenging aspect of playing the sport was having to leave his family behind and stay in a sports hostel.
"When I started playing handball in 2013, I was just playing for the sake of it. Later, I came to know about SAI. I also went to the National Handball academy. I had never lived away from home until then. That was quite a big struggle," Deshwal recalled.
Having committed his future to the sport almost a decade ago, Deshwal has risen through the ranks at a rapid pace and expects to see himself donning the India jersey on a regular basis.
"I only used to play cricket during the early days. But, once I saw a few kids play handball in school and my interest spiked. From the outside it looked as if this is a very easy sport to play. There are no technicalities...that is the only reason I started playing handball. Only when I started playing the game did I realise that even handball is very technical in nature," he laughed.
Naveen will guard the goal in semi-finals against Rajasthan Patriots in hope of guiding his team to the first-ever final of the PHL.