When the Indian women's hockey team faces Argentina tomorrow, they will be inching closer to script a new history.
I say "new history", because they have already done it once. With their 1-0 victory over Australia in the quarterfinal, they became the first women's hockey team from India to qualify for the semifinal at the Olympics.
Rani Rampal, Shahbad Markanda, Savita Punia, Sirsa, Haryana. Vandana Katariya, Roshanabad, Hardwar. Salima Tete & Nikki Pradhan, Khunti Jharkhand, Gurjit, Amritsar disrict. Lalremsiami, Mizoram.....— Joy Bhattacharjya (@joybhattacharj) August 2, 2021
Around this country, their tales will be told, their songs will be sung... pic.twitter.com/uzGAMi0C56
The women were led by their talented leader Rani Rampal, whose life story will give you literal chills. In an interview given to Humans of Bombay, she told how she started playing with a broken Hockey stick because of her love for the game and the desire to make a better life for her family and herself.
Papa was a cart puller and maa was a maid. There was a hockey academy nearby, so I’d spend hours watching the players. I really wanted to play. Papa would earn Rs.80 a day & couldn't afford to buy me a stick. Every day, I’d ask the coach to teach me. He’d reject me saying, "You aren’t strong enough to pull through a practice session". So, I began practicing with a broken hockey stick.
Rani Rampal's father was a cart puller, and mother, a maid. They couldnt afford to buy a stick for their daughter as she grew up in Kurukshetra— Aniket Mishra (@aniketmishra299) August 2, 2021
Her 1st coach thought she wasnt strong enough
Undeterred she kept playing - adversities only made her stronger
Dreams do come true❤️ pic.twitter.com/UWa6HRYUWD
But just when she told herself that she will make it work, sexism came in between as her parents had a problem with how Hockey players dress.
But my family said, "Hum tumhe skirt pehen kar khelne nahi denge". I’d plead, "Please mujhe jaane do. If I fail, I’ll do whatever you want". My family gave in.
This was a time when Rani's family did not even have a watch. Her mother used to look at the sky and predict the time to wake her up.
From an 18-year-old Rani who was heartbroken after losing to South Africa in the final Olympic qualifier of London 2012 to leading the Indian women’s team to the semifinals of the Olympics, what a journey for Rani Rampal this has been! ❤️— Hari Priya CR (@cr_hariPriya) August 2, 2021
(I am just emo 😢) #Tokyo2020 #Hockey pic.twitter.com/lpFVLBOrqr
There was a complete lack of resources and it was her coach who helped her out in those tough situations.
My coach supported me, he’d buy me hockey kits & shoes. He even took care of my dietary needs. I wouldn’t miss a single day of practice.
Rani slowly started climbing the ladder and in one of the early competitions, won 500 rupees that she gave to her father.
It was the first time he was holding this much money in his hands.
Haryana | It's very happy & proud moment for us. Our daughter (Rani) has created history. It all happened because of her coach Baldev Singh. Before leaving for Tokyo, she said she'll return with medal: Rampal, women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal's father, in Kurukshetra pic.twitter.com/G9NiOSHVe9— The Times Of India (@timesofindia) August 2, 2021
Eventually, things started looking up and she was selected for the national team at the young age of 15. And that changed everything, from talks of her marriage, the discussion shifted to how she was inspiring girls around her.
Papa’s friend visited us. He brought along his granddaughter & told me, "She’s inspired by you & wants to become a hockey player!" I was so happy!
Nothing is impossible! Indian women's hockey team beats unbeaten Australia 1-0 and creates history by making it to their first ever Olympic semi-final. Hoping for two golds in hockey now! Great going Rani Rampal and team.— Nityānanda Miśra (मिश्रोपाख्यो नित्यानन्दः) (@MisraNityanand) August 2, 2021
Rani once promised her parents that she will buy them a house, a promise she fulfilled, and now she is looking at another important vow that she has taken. In her words:
I’m not done yet; this year, I’m determined to repay them and coach with something they’ve always dreamed of, a gold medal from Tokyo.
Rooting for Rani and the team with all our hearts. They have a long way, they deserve to win.
You can read the complete story here: