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London Lions: Danish Mujtaba: A surprise element i (7/3/2012)
--K. Arumugam
Danish Mujtaba: A surprise element in the London Pack

Quiet looking, short guy Mujtaba is a story petrel on the turf. Hardly does he comes into the focus until he does the damage, -- that's why he is our surprise element in the London Pack - as coaches often misses him out in their target. The chubby, baby-faced, star knows his job, and wastes no time to sprint fast upfront.

undefined The 23-year-old could not have done anything else. Coming from Allahabad -- one of India’s biggest hockey centres at one time – and a family where everyone played hockey, Danish Mujtaba did not have to struggle to pick up the hockey stick or start playing. In fact, he was even allowed to play hockey at the expense of his studies in school, so great was the love for the game in his family.

Born on December 20, 1988, Danish was first introduced to the sport by his maternal uncle Aatif idris, who played for Indian Airlines. His grandfather Idris Ahmed too had played the sport, as did his elder brother Hamza, who represented India in a few games and plays for Indian Oil on the domestic circuit. But none had gone on to become the kind of key member in the national side as Danish has managed to do. Like everyone else before him in the family, Danish too started off as a forward.

At the age of 13, he gave trials and was admitted to the Lucknow Sports Hostel. Three years later, he moved to the Air India Academy in New Delhi, which was the turning point in his career. From there, he was selected for the India Under-18 team for a six-nation event in Singapore, scoring his first international goal against the hosts. After a series of international tours at the junior level, his big break came in 2009, when he was included in the squad for the Junior World Cup at Singapore/ Malaysia. He made his senior India debut the same year under Jose Brasa during the Canada test series before the Champions Challenge in Argentina.

The Spaniard had full faith in Danish, and he was included in the team for the 2010 World Cup. Since then, Danish has been working hard to prove his coaches and selectors right and is a key member of the Indian team. However, he was moved from his favourite forward position to playing as a left-half, a position he wasn’t too comfortable with but worked hard to excel at. Under coach Nobbs, he is again playing as a scorer and he is enjoying the freedom to play the way he has always done. In fact, so talented is he considered that he was selected for a special all-expense paid three-week training programme at the elite Australian Institute of Sports by the Australian government, the only Indian male player to do so.

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