Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

He is motivating youngsters to play hockey in India

Mir Ranjan Negi, the national hockey player-turned-coach, whose life was the inspiration for runaway Bollywood hit Chak De! India, has found a new cause. The former India goalkeeper, who had walked away from the game in disgrace only to find redemption later, is now coaching and motivating underprivileged hockey players in Mumbai in the memory of his son who was killed in a road accident.

Negi has adopted the hockey team of Mumbai’s Don Bosco Shelter — whose players include street children, orphans and runaway boys — through the Abhi Foundation, which was set up in memory of his son Abhi who died two-and-a-half years ago. The aim is modest, for now — use sport to inspire the boys to become self-sufficient.

Negi, who was instrumental in getting a team of street children to play in the lower division of Mumbai Hockey Association’s league last season, said he was so impressed by their show that he decided to do more for them.

“The plan is to adopt these kids and provide them the necessary infrastructure needed for better training. We will take care of all their needs,” said Negi, who was seen on TV on a popular reality dance show after hitting the headlines following the success of Chak De! India.

Negi, through the Abhi foundation, is already involved in promoting hockey in Sangli and Kolhapur in Maharashtra. The foundation has adopted 20 girls each in the two towns and provides them with expert guidance, better facilities and funding.

Negi has also been approached by the Salaam Bombay Trust to form a hockey team for underprivileged kids in the city. These days, the former India goalkeeper is also busy with the shooting of a movie called Mumbai Chakachak, where he plays the city’s municipal commissioner.

Negi’s plan has triggered excitement at Don Bosco’s Wadala shelter. Fifteen-year-old Madhu Siddaraju, who landed at Don Bosco after running away from home, happens to be a goalkeeper and looks forward to interacting with the celebrity hockey player. “I too want to be a great goal keeper like Negisab,” he says.

The teenager talks about his modest hockey profile that shows a growing interest in the game and a rising skill graph. “In the first game of the league that I played I conceded 15 goals. I let in six in the next and in our last game there were just four,” says Madhu, who slept and begged at Churchgate railway Station before moving to the shelter.

Madhu’s play mate Kamlesh Kumar Pal dares to dream big after coming in touch with Negi. “He has always been helpful to us, he visits our shelter and inspire us to be a winner on the hockey field and off too,” says the 15-year-old whose parents died in a road accident six years ago.
Kamlesh too was seriously injured in the accident and was bed-ridden for a year. He speaks about the ill-treatment he received from his relatives and his subsequent trip to Mumbai. “I spent some days at the Andheri station before somebody informed me about the shelter. Since the day I picked up the hockey stick things have changed,” says Pal.

Director of the shelter, Father Lloyd Rodrigues, says he has seen the positive change in the lives of the children since they started playing hockey. “We want to make these kids self-dependent and want them to lead a good life. Sports can help us achieve our objective. And with a person like Negi involved, the kids have a great guide,” he says.

Ask Negi if the children have it in them to make it big on the hockey field and he smiles in reply. “I have seen these kids, they are willing to learn. And if I can make film actresses appear like a bunch of national level hockey players on screen, why not these kids,” he said.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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