Flick it like Mithapur

Mithapur hockey nursery has produced six Olympians so far

Flick it like Mithapur

So revered is the hallowed soil of Mithapur that people from all over Punjab come to take it in order to mix it at their village playgrounds. Tribune correspondent Aparna Banerji and lensman Sarabjit Singh visit Mithapur hockey nursery, which has produced six Olympians so far

It’s said Mithapur and hockey are inseparable. The village has produced six Olympic greats — Swarup Singh (1952 Helsinki Olympics), Kulwant Singh (1972 Olympics), Pargat Singh (1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics) and three players, including Captain Manpreet Singh (also played in 2012 and 2016 Olympics), Mandeep Singh and Varun Kumar, are part of Indian hockey squad presently playing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Pargat Singh played Olympics in 1988, 1992 and 1996. He was the flagbearer for the Indian contingent in 1996 Olympics.
Kulwant Singh in action in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Mithapur’s hockey players pose for a photo (1956-57).

On July 29, alarms went off at 6 am in every house to witness India beat Argentina 3-1, thus cementing their place in quarterfinals. As Varun scored the first goal in the match, the village let out a collective gasp of joy.

Hockey team of Mithapur National High School in 1979-80. Pargat Singh stands fourth from left (short hair).
Swarup Singh, who played for India in the 1952 Olympics.
Indian captain Manpreet Singh (second from right) sits next to Mandeep Singh (third from right) and Varun Kumar (fourth from right). The trio are friends who grew up and went to school together in the village. All three of them are representing India in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photograph clicked during their childhood days.

Coach Balwinder Singh and member Hockey India said, “Hockey is in our blood. Generations toiled for this moment. From Swarup Singh to Manpreet Singh, numerous unsung heores have fanned the sporting passion. Coach Sarabjit Singh Sabi gave wsidom after playing for leagues abroad. Olympian Pargat Singh is always there to support us. We train at least 70 players and around four sportspersons will make it to the next Olympics.”

Rick Charlesworth, who is a five-time Australian Olympian and runs Roundglass Academy, provides free hockey coaching to players at Shaheed Darshan Singh Kaypee Stadium.

Shaheed Darshan Singh Kaypee Stadium at Mithapur village has become a breeding ground for fresh hockey talent. Around 60 to 70 budding players practice at the ground every day.
Manjit Kaur, mother of Indian hockey captain Manpreet Singh poses with trophies of her son. The mid-fielder has played 259 international matches for India and is the second hockey player from Mithapur after Olympian Pargat Singh to be the flagbearer of the Indian contingent.
Indian hockey captain Manpreet Singh
Brahmanad and Shakuntala, parents of Varun Kumar showcase medals won by the 27-year-old player during various international tournaments. Varun scored India’s opening goal against defending champions Argentina with his drag flick at the Tokyo Olympics on July 29.
Varun Kumar
Ravinder Singh and Ravinderjit Kaur, parents of Mandeep Singh pose with the trophies won by their son during various national and international tournaments. The 26-year-old striker debuted at the Tokyo Olympics and is India’s leading goal scorer after Rupinder Pal Singh.
Mandeep Singh

Surinder Pal Singh (72), who is the eldest living hockey veteran, and played six years for East Bengal Club, said, “Saria Singh Kairon started hockey fad in the village. Swarup Singh Olympian was the first product. Earlier, there was no field or stadium. Gurdwara Singh Sabha Mithapur’s front yard used to be our hockey ground. With hockey sticks and ‘khesis’ on shoulders, villagers used to come out in hordes to play the game in evening.”

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