Players of SS High School, Khunti, and Jharkhand Police (in light blue) in action during the 2nd Mecon Invitational Hockey Tournament in Ranchi on Sunday . Picture by Hardeep Singh
Indian hockey is looking to rise out of its rubble and a 19-year-old defender might well be its phoenix.
Meet Amit Rohidas, the lanky teen from Odisha’s remote Saunamara village in Sundargarh district, who was snapped up by the Ranchi Rhinos for a whopping $29,000, five times more than his base price of $5,600, for the upcoming Hockey India League. The auction of players for the tournament, which starts from January 14, took place in New Delhi last month.
Rohidas, an expert defender who is known for his drag flicking skills, confessed to The Telegraph that the tournament was special to him in more ways than one.
For one, he had never expected such a high bid at the auction.
“I was roped in for $29,000 or Rs 16 lakh in Indian currency. It is a package that I could have never imagined to earn in a lifetime,” Rohidas said.
He quickly added that coming from a poor family and actually getting paid for playing hockey in current times was almost like a dream coming true.
“For me it will be like living a dream. The tournament will be a platform for players like me to share the field and get to learn from the greats of the game,” Rohidas said.
The teen who joined the junior national team in 2009 and went on to represent India in the U-18 Junior Asia Cup Hockey in Myanmar, said his aim would be to use his performance during the event to try and cement a place in the national squad.
“I was also part of the team, which finished third in the U-21 Junior Asia Cup Hockey in Malaysia in 2012. A year before that I was also part of the outfit that finished as second runner up in the 2011 Sultan of Johor Cup. Apart from this I have also played in two Hockey India Senior Men’s National Championship in Bhopal and Bangalore in 2011 and 2012. So I have got a fair bit of experience behind me,” he claimed.
Rohidas, who saw fierce bidding from Punjab before being lapped up by the Rhinos, will join the likes of legends like Moritz Fuertse (Germany), Ashley Jackson (England), Austin Smith (South Africa), Floris Evers (The Netherlands) and Francisco Cortes (Spain) all of who have been drafted by the Ranchi team.
Besides them the Indian players joining forces with him in the team would be Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra and K. Kothajit Singh.
“I strongly believe that the team is full of exceptional talent and playing with them will certainly help me raise and improve my game. All of us would be competing for a berth in the Indian squad, so expect a great show. I am also looking forward to train under South African Gregg Clarke who has been named as the coach for our outfit. It is going to be a great exposure trip for all the Indian players,” Rohidas said.
So how did hockey happen to him?
The teen admitted that legendary hockey player Dilip Tirkey was one of his biggest motivators to get him in the game.
“I started playing in my village with local boys. Hockey is very popular in our area because of him (Dilip Tirkey). He hails from my village and has led India in many international games. He is a motivation for us. All of us want to be able to drag-flick like him,” he said matter-of-factly.
He added in 2004 his real transformation started taking place when he joined Panposh Sports Hostel in Rourkela.
“My talent was spotted there and I started representing my hostel team at district and state level tournaments. After that, there was no turning back for me. But I still make it a point to go back and play for my hostel team whenever I get the time,” Rohidas, who is also pursuing an intermediate course through correspondence, said.