A football for every newborn boy in these villages - Mandi Gobindgarh News

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Monday, April 8, 2019

A football for every newborn boy in these villages

A football for every newborn boy in these villages

Ravi Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 7

In Khokhar Faujian village, the ritual of placing a football beside a newly-born male child is alive and kicking five decades after it was first initiated even as the area, comprising a cluster of six villages, has acquired the reputation of producing top-draw footballers.

Whenever a baby boy is born in the village, 15 km from Gurdaspur on the road leading to Batala, local players come calling and leave a ball near the child or in the lap of his mother.

“This custom is in vogue ever since it was started in the late Sixties. When RCF goalkeeper Gurpinder Singh was born, this particular practice was followed. Likewise, when his son, Gulraj Singh, was born, Gurpinder left a ball beside him,” said Amritpal Singh, who doubles up as a teacher and player.

The villages, where the sport has become a way of life, are Udhowal, Dyalgarh, Godharpur, Bulewal and Behbal Chak, all of which are scattered on either side of GT road.

These hamlets have acquired the sobriquet of being “conveyer belts” for producing good players.

Sample this: goalkeeper Pawan Kumar of Khokhar Faujian has been contracted by the prestigious Assam-based North East (NE) club for two years at a price of Rs 80 lakh. The club is owned by actor John Abraham and takes part in the Indian Super League (ISL).

In 2010, he led JCT to the Durand Cup final. He has also trained in UK with the Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy because JCT and the Academy have a partnership.

“Likewise, Lara Sharma, who turns out for Atletico FC, Kolkata, is also from the same village as Pawan,” said Harpal Singh, a school DPI in Dyalgarh village.

Midfielder Shenaj Singh of Udhowal village has also made a name for himself in the domestic circuit while playing for Vasco FC, Goa. Other players who have done Punjab proud in Santosh Trophy, the country’s top domestic championship, are Manjinder Singh Toni, Hargursharanjit Singh Goni, Gurpinder Singh, Harpal Singh and Suba Singh, the last two being SP-rank officers in Punjab Police.

“We have worked hard to ensure that the flag of our village keeps flying high. Things do not always go your way in football. At the end of the day, you have to have a positive attitude and strong mentality and not let any setbacks bog you down,” said Bhagat Singh Pannu, a Punjab Police official.

He regularly organises a seven-a-side tournament for under-19 boys, which, over the years, has become a hunting ground for spotting talent.

Youngsters from these villages regularly take part in tournaments across the state. It is from here that teams like RCF, Punjab Police, BSF, Army and JCT choose their picks.

A player said the area could have produced more national and international-level players but for the fact that not many tournaments are held these days.

“The Shaheed Bhagat Singh memorial tournament used to be held in Khokhar Faujian. Seven years ago, it was discontinued because SAD and Congress politicians played spoilsport. If such tourneys are held regularly, we can give our state more players,” said a player.

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