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PRABHJOT SINGH: A Wily Winger (2/21/2004)
--Prof. P.S. Randhawa
As a small kid playing, hockey on his village kucha (unprepared and unleveled) grounds, Prabhjot did not dream that he would become a famous player. His family, why even the village, had no sporting tradition. The facilities for sports were anything but perfect. Yet Prabhjot Singh, who as a boy got infatuated with the game of hockey after watching boys of his village playing it, rose to become India’s live wire left -winger. His is a story of struggle that ended in a stupendous success.

Prabhjot’s forefathers suffered the trauma of partition in 1947. They were uprooted from Sialkot, now in Pakistan, and landed in a small village Masanian near Patala in Punjab. It was a Herculean task for Sardar Jagir Singh, grand father of Prabhjot, to rise and support a big family of three daughters and four sons in an altogether different socio-economic set up. Only one of his sons, Sardar Sewa Singh, could get a decent education – under-graduate from the local Baring Union Christian College. Prabhjot Singh was born on 14th August 1980 as the youngest of three children to Sewa Singh and Balwinder Kaur, a Punjab government employee.

Prabhjot was always playful and hardly took any interest in studies. He enjoyed watching others play and retrieving the balls for the senior boys who used to play hockey on a rugged ground near his home. He hated his A.V.M. School in Patala as it had no hockey grounds! He forced his parents to shift him to another school where he started playing hockey on the famous chitti grounds under the guidance of Bekhtawar Singh Bhumbli. He has made vast strides since then.

Prabhjot, 12, joined local Guru Nanak Dev Academy which raised a hockey team. With Prabhjot in its ranks, the Academy won both district and state Under-14 Championships. Prabhjot was also the member of the Punjab Under-14 hockey team, which won the National School Games in 1990-91 at Jammu. Later, he joined Khalsa Senior Secondary School in Dhadial in Patiala district. In 1995-96, he helped his team win a silver medal in the National School Games. During the same year he played for PEPSU in the Junior National Championship in Delhi. The year 1997 was the turning point in Prabhjot’s life. At Bangalore in the Senior Nationals, he amassed 21 goals in six matches to be declared `Player of the Championship.

Soon National Institute of Sports in Patiala adopted him under an appropriate scheme. He honed his skills for nearly four years under coach Inderjit Singh Gill before moving to Air India Academy in Delhi in 1998. He was in the Air India Academy for three years, under the tutelage of coach A.K. Bansal,. While in the Academy, he was enrolled in the renowned educational institution, Jamia Milia Islamia. During this period he toured Australia as a part of the Combined Universities hockey team. It was the first offshore outing for Prabhjot who in the latter years would undertake half a dozen tours every year.

In 1999, on a specific request, the Indian Hockey Federation selected three players for a short stint at the Indian Gymkhana Club in London. Prabhjot was one among them. He earned his Junior India cap during the 1999 Holland tour under coach C.R. Kumar. He earned his India colours the same year as a member of the team that played in the Barcelona 4-Nation Cup. On the domestic front, he joined the Indian Oil Corporation in 2000, as a high profile officer. It was the year the only Indian company in the Fortune 500 list started a hockey team of its own. This team under the coaching of A.K. Bansal clinched the prestigious Nehru Cup the same year. Prabhjot won many accolades in domestic hockey like the Best Player epithet in 200 Beighton Cup and Bombay Gold Cup in 2002.

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