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Sandeep Singh: "Why was I ignored?" (5/26/2008)
Last one year Sandeep Singh has been in the news for all wrong reasons. His exclusion in the national team sparked many controversies. But the man in the muddle did not come out with his version of events, despite hectic media focus. Returning to Indian side after a year, he let his stick for himself in the Azlan Shah Cup. He is over all top scorer here with seven goals -- two matches are yet to be played. For a player who was accidentally shot at during a journey, his return to form is remarkable, a fairy tale story indeed. What went through his mind when he was in the hospital? How was the come back made possible? What are the problems he faced and why he avoided national colours last one year? For the first time ever, otherwise introvert Sandeep Singh opens his heart to K. Arumugam in a rare interview and replies to all these vital queries.

You are returning to the side after an year and how do you rate your performance?
In the first five matches, I got seven goals, played well as a defender also. Am able to send long passes also. But we did not play second half due to humidity.

Why did you opt to play for India despite an invite from a German Club?
Last year I played for them first leg, before that two years in Holland. Now when I get the call, I gave priority to the nation. I was fit and also got the call.

But you did not show any interest in the last one year?
I feel bad now, as lot changes have occurred, starting from the Doha Asian Games. We failed in Chile also. Our hockey’s all history is gone. My internal feeling is that if had been fit, probably this much damage would not have occurred.

Then why did you avoid playing India last year. Did you have any problem with the coaching staff?
You see, they asked to me flick 300 to 400 times a day. Was that not a ploy to exhaust a player? I think so. It is not practicable at all. 50-70 full force flicks will do – instead we should focus on accuracy not on force. This is what experts including Richard Charlesworth say.

Was this only reason for avoiding camps last year?
Not at all. People did not believe me, I don’t’ know, why. After PHL (2007) I was suffering from fever. Those reporters who came to my home knew it. I got injured my fingers during KD Singh Babu tournament. See the scars. People thought on their own I am avoiding.

How did you come out of that train accident?
It is a tragedy. I had pains for six months. I made my muscles again. Two and half months I was in a hospital. I started practicing during Asian Games camp but only 40-50 percent hockey was there in me

What was your feeling when in the hospital?
One doctor dealing with me told ‘you cannot move for six years’. Being player how can I hear and tolerate. I asked him to move away. Thankfully, other doctors (Dr. Vig and MS Dhillon) encouraged me. But there was no surety I can walk. My both legs were paralised as the bullet hit in the spine in L2 T12. But the doctors told me if you can bring minor moments, things can improve. In two days, I showed moment. When I moved my legs, stomach stitches and drain pipe removed. When I started folding the legs, almost all sticks and drains in my body were removed. When I went for physiotherapy in Holland, I decided I should play again.

So things improved in Holland?
Day time ok, in nights I got lot of pains. I often cried in pain. My associate Mr. Raj helped me a lot in getting me right supplement (proteins and vitamins). He got DVDs from American athletic Centre to help improving muscles, and got all training equipment also. We don’t earn so much to have everything on all our own. In training camps also we get minimum support.

It looks you have some bad memories of the injury?
Certainly yes. We were then living in a rented house (Recently, I started building my own house). But that time I waited government to help me. All the monies with my elder brother (Bikramjit Singh, 2001 Jr. World Cup player) and with my family were spent on me. When I was in hospital, I don’t even know whether I will survive or not. But our house owner in Shahbad asked our family to vacate the house and we had to. I remember those days even now. I felt very bad. This country is so big but it did not offer me help when I needed it. I have not got injured on my personal trip, but when I was traveling to join the World Cup team. Even if a child falls in tube well pit, like in the case of Prince, everyone comes forward and extend support. Why did I not get anything? Why was I ignored? I can never forget those days in my life. Now because I have come back people talk about me, if not what would have happened to my career? I would have been finished.

Nobody helped you indeed?
Haryana borne the treatment expenses, the IHF for physiotherapy in Holland Jugraj got enough support from Sahara and others. Why not for me? There are more expense in such times than medical treatment costs.

Then how did you mange everything?
Hockey is a demanding game, bringing back fitness level is not easy, needs lot of money and others. I spent all my earning there, and thanks to my job with Indian Airlines I survived. That’s why last one year I put my best efforts for the airlines team and almost in all tournaments either I top scored or got the best player award. I am happy I returned something to them. I would have perished without that job.

Note: Part of this interview was published in Hindustan Times a fortnight ago.

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