Resolute Neelam overcomes financial hurdles to play for Indian junior women's team
Neelam made her debut for India debut at the 2023 Junior Women’s Asia Cup held in Kakamigahara, Japan, which the Indian team won. The 20-year-old talent showcased her prowess in the defence and scored three goals.
Neelam, a pivotal player in the Indian Junior Women's Hockey Team, embodies the spirit of unwavering dedication and resilience. Her remarkable journey from humble rural beginnings to becoming a national-level athlete is a testament to her perseverance and determination.
Neelam's journey into the realm of hockey commenced during her early school days in the 4th grade. Her elder sister and cousin sisters served as her initial sources of inspiration. Seeing their passion for the sport as they ventured out of their homes to play fueled young Neelam's determination to follow in their footsteps.
"When I started, I was the youngest, always following my elder sister and cousin sisters to the ground," Neelam reminisces. "Despite being told I was too small to join them, I persisted for three years."
Injuries cast shadows on her early days, but Neelam's spirit remained unwavering. "My brother always believed in me," she affirms. "He used to tell me, 'No one in your batch has your strength.' Even in my toughest times, he made me believe I was the best."
Overcoming the hurdles
Financial constraints added to the challenges, but Neelam's family support was unwavering. "Sometimes affording even Rs. 500 for tournaments seemed impossible," she recalls. "But my family’s relentless efforts made it happen."
Years of hard work, overcoming financial hurdles, familial adversities, and health challenges culminated in Neelam's remarkable success as she represented Haryana across multiple levels, amassing a collection of medals and accolades in Sub-Junior, Junior, and Senior National Championships.
Her stellar performance earned her a spot in the prestigious Junior National Camp held at SAI Bengaluru in 2022.
Owing to her consistent performances, Neelam made her debut for India debut at the 2023 Junior Women’s Asia Cup held in Kakamigahara, Japan, which the Indian team won. Over the course of six matches, the 20-year-old talent showcased her prowess in the defence and also scored three goals for the title winners.
"My journey stands as proof that perseverance knows no bounds," Neelam asserts. "No matter the hardships, staying dedicated to your dreams is what matters."
As the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 approaches, Neelam stands resolute, gearing up to make a mark in Santiago, Chile. The team is set to kick off their journey in Pool C against Canada on 29th November, and Neelam exudes confidence in their ability to deliver a standout performance.
"I'm charged with excitement and resolve to pour my heart and soul onto the field during the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. Our focus remains on honing our structure and translating our practiced strengths and skills into every game. Building from our momentum in the Women's Junior Asia Cup, we're evolving, game by game, fostering a positive approach. We are confident of bringing the elusive title home,” Neelam concluded.