Bigan Soy gets a rousing welcome from her SAI mates outside Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi on Thursday afternoon. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Twenty-year-old Bigan Soy only “thought of India” when she was sent to prove herself in the final minutes of the World Cup junior hockey match against England in Monchengladbach, Germany, on August 4.
The surprise penalty shootout goalie who became instrumental in India’s historic 3-2 win on Sunday, Bigan reached Ranchi on Thursday to a thunderous welcome.
The pint-sized dynamite landed at Ranchi airport from New Delhi on a Jet Airways flight around 1.35pm. Receiving her were some 30 SAI (Ranchi) cadets, in-charge S.K. Verma, Hockey Jharkhand general secretary and former player Savitri Purty, Hockey Jharkhand treasurer Suresh Kumar and deputy director (state sports department) Sarojini Lakra.
From there, she straight went to Project Building to meet chief minister Hemant Soren and minister for sports and youth affairs Geetashree Oraon. By 3.45pm, she was at the SAI campus on Morabadi football stadium, grinning widely, being hugged and lifted high by fellow cadets, getting feted and playing the nagara.
Inside SAI, Bigan was ready to answer media queries.
India was tied with England 1-1 during the 70 minutes of the regulation match. “I had to deliver in less than five minutes,” she said.
Wasn’t the pressure to deliver a miracle immense? “I was mentally prepared,” Bigan said. “A little nervous,” she added honestly.
What was on her mind in those crucial minutes?
“Coach Narinder Saini sir mujhe bhejne se pehle bole, ab desh ka jimma sirf tere par hi hai. Main sirf desh ke baare mein hi sochte rahi. (Coach Narinder Saini told me that the onus of my country was solely on me. I just kept thinking about India). I kept my eyes on the ball and my work was done,” she said as SAI coach S.K. Mohanty and in-charge Verma patted her on her head.
India was placed in Pool C along with New Zealand, Australia and Russia. In the opener, India lost to Australia. Then, it went on a winning streak and entered the top four.
“Compared to foreign teams, Indian girls need to evolve in terms of physique and food intake. But when it comes to mental strength, we have iron nerves. Bachpan se itna mushkil ka saamna karte hain ki pressure adaat lagne lagta hai. (We struggle from childhood. Handling pressure is a habit),” said the farmer’s daughter.
A bulk of the Rs 1 lakh cash prize from Hockey India will go to repair the leaking roof of her Bandgaon village home in Chaibasa.
So far, Hemant has not announced any prize for Bigan. “I will announce the right thing at the right time,” he only said. He, however, invited Bigan and her parents Nara and Lipi Soy as special guests during the indigenous day celebrations at Morabadi on Friday.
For Bigan, however, meeting Hemant was a big deal. “My parents won’t believe I met the chief minister,” chuckled this simple girl who won a bronze for a grateful nation.