Raphael, Sunil humbled by awards

They are both soft-spoken, take their achievements lightly and responsibilities seriously.

The arjuna award “acts as extra motivation” for S. V. Sunil.   -  K. Murali Kumar

They are both soft-spoken, take their achievements lightly and responsibilities seriously.

Panakal Auso Raphael received the Dronacharya award for hockey and S.V. Sunil the Arjuna award. Between them, the two provide a glimpse into how hockey has been kept alive in Karnataka over generations. Though Raphael is from Thrissur, he spent most of his hockey days in Chennai and Bangalore. And both credit Bangalore for their success.

“Playing for the country is much bigger than any award. But being rewarded for your performance and hard work over so many years gives an extra push to continue doing it further, it acts as extra motivation. It is not just about me. There are so many boys back in village who look up to me, who consider me their role model. An award only adds to the responsibility you have towards them. It is a stamp of honour for representing the country and you cannot be irresponsible with it,” Sunil says.

‘Love and respect’

Raphael takes his detachment with awards further. “I was least bothered about applying. I have always felt that honours must not be asked for. But my boys said the system is such. I have got this only because of them. They coordinated with all my students across India for the affidavits of support, applied on my behalf and some of them even recommended my name since apparently every nomination has to be forwarded by someone fulfilling certain criteria. But the love and respect they have given me is more than any reward I can ask for. They still visit me often with their families,” he beams.

First with SAI and then with Air India, Raphael's students number in 100s, most of them playing for India. The list includes Jagbir Singh, A. B. Subbaiah, Sabu Varkey, Jude Felix, Sandeep Somesh, Anil Aldrin to just name a few. Raphael was also the first director of the Air India Hockey Academy in Delhi in 1991.

Sunil has his own list of coaches he is grateful to. “I had goosebumps when I was first told I had got the award. After my family, I called up my coaches from childhood onwards to inform them. First coaches Yashwant Acahrya, B. M. Suresh and Sudeep at Blue Star Club in Madikeri, then Vijay Krishna sir in Bangalore hostel and then Joaquim Carvalho sir, under whom I made my international debut. These were people who helped me at every step of my life, the least I can do is thank them at this moment,” he said.