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When India won the Sub-junior Asia Cup 15 summers (9/17/2016)
--K. Arumugam
When India won the Sub-junior Asia Cup 15 summers ago.

Tushar Khandker, one of the present Senior Men’s team’s national coaches, is player of the tournament while Rajpal Singh, now a high ranking police official with Punjab Police is Best Player of the final. Goalkeeper Suraj Kanta gets special award for his role in India winning the crown. Jugraj Singh, heartthrob of millions before a car accident consumed his hockey career, led the side for the crown without losing a match, and striking a whopping 54 goals in six encounters. When was this all happened, and what tournament are we talking about ?

undefined As brimming boys sweat it out in the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi under the watchful eyes of coaches Mukesh Kumar and BJ Kariappa, and are reading for the third appearance of India in the Asian Hockey Federation’s fourth age group Asia Cup, this site looks down the line on how India fared in the inaugural edition.

Exactly 15 summers ago, Jugraj Singh was all of 16 years but was shouldering the onerous responsibility of leading Indian challenge in the inaugural Sub-Junior Asia Cup. Ipoh’s well known sporting field, Azlan Shah Stadium, hosted the AHF’s belated venture into Under-18 age category.

The event then used to be called AHF Youth Asia Cup, later rightly changed into Sub-Junior Asia Cup. It was for Under-18 boys as used to be the case now.

In the early 2000s, unlike nowadays, there used to be frequent tournaments for different age groups.

Between 2000 and 2001 in a year’s spell, in the run up to the 2001 Junior World Cup, for instance, India played in around 10 tournaments: were the reigning champions of Asia School Games, both Asia’s Under-16 & Under-18 Champions, gold at the Samaranch Cup, KL Six Nation and Akbar el Yom in Cairo, Egypt. India lost only the Asian Junior Championship in the final to South Korea on tie-break.

Be it as it may.

India did not enter for the first edition of Sub-Jr Asia Cup, but was cajoled to join. Once entered, it put in place a three-week camp and an experienced team was picked up.

undefined India had the luxury of selecting a good team: Most of the boys selected had figured in the rarely held, but highly competitive Senior Nationals and Grade I tournaments in the month preceding the Ipoh. This hard grind paid off. Captain Jugraj Singh had been declared Best at the U&I Championship and got a reward of Rs. 25,000. Six players, viz Rajnikant, Sumesh Kanta,, Tushar Khandker, Amarjeet Singh and Raju were also part of the Victorious Asian School Games and also Asian Under-16 Asia Cup, which won the gold under the coaching of Ajay Kumar Bansal six months ago. Two players, KP Roy and Raju played in the latest Akbar el Yom Cup in Cairo.

The experience told on the Ipoh Turf.

At least in three matches, Indian were on target within five minutes of play. They struck a 7-0 win over Oman in the opener and 10-nil over Singpaore. India faced tough challenge in Malaysia which was seen off with an entertaining 6-4 scoreline though. Brunei was the last pool encounter, the Indian won it 17-1. It drubbed South Korea 7-0 in the semis before thumping down Uzbekistan with the same score in the final.

In all, India collected an amazing 54 goals. Winger Rajpal Singh was hailed as Skilful Sikh in the media. Jugraj Singh showed his early glimpses of penalty corner prowess, amassing 14 goals. Three Indians were taken into Asian XI.

The Indian Hockey Federation organized a grand welcome ceremony both at Chennai and New Delhi for the returning heroes on June 12, 2001.

Each player was supposed to be paid Rs.20,000 but only those 12 players who came to Delhi got it, others dispersed from Chennai to their homes, were left in lurch. That used to be IHF style in those days!

That is for the academic, but what stood was almost half of the team members went on to play for India another decade. The seeds of their growth were sown in Ipoh.

Significantly, India went on to win the Junior World Cup four months later.

Similarly, we hope to see germination of great players this time at Dakka, which will host the fourth Sub-Junior Asia Cup from 24th September onwards – and also crown at Lucknow where the Junior World Cup will be held in three months time.

The victorious inaugural Sub-Junior Asia Cup team: Suraj Kanta, Jugraj Singh, Raju, Tushar Khandker, Rajpal Singh, KP Roy, Amarjeet Singh, Sandeep Michael, S. Kartik, KP Dinesh, Bipin Thimmaiah, K. Nayas, Sandeep Kumar, Imtiaz Ahmed, Yadwinder Singh, Bikramjit Singh, Jagat Jothi. Coaches: Rajinder Singh, AE Brient, Surinder Singh Sodhi.

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