Bhopal: Through to the quarterfinals of the Hockey India 7th Senior National Championship 2017 (Women) ‘A’ Division, Railway Sports Promotion Board midfielder Deepika is optimistic the team is geared up to defend the title this year. The Railway Sports Promotion Board Women’s team have won the Championship successively since 2014. “We have topped our group and are through to the quarterfinals. From here on, there is only one goal that is to reach the final and win the title. There is no question of a defeat,” asserts Deepika who recently completed playing 200 international matches for the Indian Senior Women’s team.
With an international career spanning over a decade, what motivates Deepika to turn up at a domestic game? She is quick to answer, “You get to rub shoulders with so many young players and they come up to me and tell me that they are inspired by watching me play with or against them here at the nationals. It’s a great feeling for me,” says Deepika.
Women participating in the National Championship are undoubtedly awe-struck by Deepika’s illustrious career which includes appearances at the Commonwealth Games, World Cup as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics, a first time since 36 years in the history of women’s hockey in the country. Deepika was also instrumental in India’s maiden win at the 4th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy last year. “Many of them come up to me and ask me questions about how it was playing at the Olympics. They ask me how difficult is it to stay away from home during national camps and how I have managed to beat the odds of playing hockey despite being from a conservative background from Yamuna nagar in Haryana. When they tell me, my story motivates them to pursue hockey professionally, it motivates me as well to continue to do what I am doing,” she explains.
At the nationals, she is joined by Poonam Rani who was part of the Indian team that won the recently concluded Women’s Hockey World League Round 2. Anuradha Devi Thokchom, captain of the Railway Sports Promotion Board team was also a regular member of the Indian Senior Women’s team. “We have a strong team and we are confident of a big win this time too. Only in 2013 Railways had lost the final to Hockey Haryana,” says Olympian Deepika. The Railway Sports Promotion Board Women’s team will take on Hockey Punjab in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Post the Hockey India 7th Senior National Championship 2017 (Women) ‘A’ Division, Deepika will join the national camp in SAI, Bengaluru ahead of the team’s departure for the New Zealand Tour. For Deepika, her goals for this year apart from helping her team in Railway Sports Promotion Board win the National title is clear. She wants to see her team lift the Asia Cup and qualify for the World Cup next year. “We have set goals for this year and I believe the team is progressing well. I am confident we can improve our world ranking in the coming year,” she concluded.