Hockey gave me an identity

Dhanraj Pillay: ‘Sportstar captured the milestones in my sporting career, from the Allwyn Asia Cup in New Delhi onwards.’   -  The Hindu Photo Library

Hockey opened a window for me to the wide world, in sport and beyond. It also opened many doors for me, as a reward for all the effort put in when playing for India. Getting the opportunity to represent a nation is a matter of honour for every Indian in any walk of life. We sportspersons are lucky to be able to give back to India by doing an activity we are passionate about.

As a child growing up in Khadki, hockey was the only sport around. With my uncles and my father getting respectable jobs due to the sport, our days were spent playing the game for enjoyment. India internationals Babu Nemal and Joe Philiips were the famous names then in our area. Later on, I joined this list of these greats who inspired us.

Wearing the national colour gives me enormous pride. I hope fans and followers saw that emotion in my game. Hockey gave me everything, from education about life to respect in every corner of the world where the game is played. For a boy who passed Class X in Khadki, moving to Mumbai on a hockey journey was the start of something new.

It is said that studies create opportunities for a career. I feel sport helped me graduate in life and does the same for others, however poor or humble your background is. Hockey gave me an identity. Learning to excel in my sport gave me the confidence to change my life, by playing alongside and observing educated people.

Two deserve mention — Joaquim Carvalho at Mahindras and Tony Fernandes in France, for polishing my game and guiding me in life. The honours from society, respect from rivals, affection from fans came my way and I am trying to give back to hockey in whatever way I can.

The magazine captured the milestones in my sporting career, from the Allwyn Asia Cup in New Delhi onwards. Indian hockey and world hockey appreciates Sportstar’s effort to take the sport to the people.

(As told to Nandakumar Marar)

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