Mohammed Raheel Mouseen's India dream finally takes flight
Mohammed Raheel Mouseen had seen India play for the first time at the 2014 Champions Trophy in Kalinga Stadium. After a wait of eight long years, he made his India debut in the same stadium on Friday.
Bhubaneswar: As a teenager, Mohammed Raheel Mouseen had often brushed shoulders with the India hockey team at Bengaluru. A Sports Authority of India (SAI) hostel inmate, he used to practise on the same turf as the Indian men's hockey team. Despite playing the same sport in the same city and the same centre, it took eight years for him to get a jersey upgrade.
Now 25 years old, Raheel made his debut for India in the FIH Pro league opener against New Zealand on Friday night.
"Hard work and patience finally paid off. My dream has come true," Raheel let out a sigh of relief while speaking to the Bridge post-match.
Raheel's debut happened to be at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar - the same venue where the Bengaluru lad had watched India play live in an international tournament for the first time.
"In 2014, my coach took me and my teammates to Bhubaneswar to watch the Champions Trophy. It was my first ever experience watching India play. The energy and the crowd in the stadium was unmatchable. Since then, it has been my wish to play in this stadium some day, wearing the Indian jersey. Making a debut in this stadium is a special moment in my life," he said.
'This year was my last chance'
Though Raheel comes from a hockey family, where his grandfather, father and brother played the sport, he is the first from his family to wear the Indian jersey. But it has been a long wait for him.
The forward hogged the limelight during the Hockey 5s tournament held in Laussane, Switzerland, this year, followed by the Senior Nationals, where he was adjudged the top scorer and player of the tournament. He was selected for the national camp in January this year. Three days prior to the tournament, Raheel came to know about getting selected in the 22-member team for the FIH Pro League.
Making his debut at 25, he finds that only eight players in the squad are older than him.
"I took this year as my last chance to make a cut in the team. So, I put in all possible effort to make it a reality. I wouldn't say my selection was a complete surprise. Somewhere, I was hoping that this would be my chance. But I couldn't afford to be over-confident. So, I kept my fingers crossed," Raheel said.
The first match was a mixed bag for him – he got a few opportunities on top of the circle, but couldn't translate it into a goal – something which he had hoped for. Mandeep Singh came up with the goods as India scored twice in the final quarter to win the match 4-3.
"A goal in my debut and my special stadium would have been great. But, looks like I have to wait a bit," said the debutant.
The FIH Pro League will play a major factor in deciding the team combination for the World Cup, slated for early next year. Raheel is aware of its importance and is preparing accordingly.
"Each match and every minute on the turf is crucial. I have to show my performance in every match to get considered for the World Cup. There is no margin for any error. It doesn't add pressure, but instead responsibility on me," he said.