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.
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.
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.
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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