Bengaluru, 16th September 2023: Growing up in Manipur, a state that has a deep-rooted passion for football, it came as no surprise that Bichu Devi Kharibam aspired to become a footballer. But destiny had other plans for her. “Hailing from Manipur, it was natural for me to opt for football. I loved playing the sport. But it was my father who suggested that I should try my hands at hockey as it was not making it into the football team. He told me that if I don’t like hockey, it will be okay and I can always come back for football,” Bichu recalled.
~The Manipur-born goalkeeper has 14 international caps to her name~
“Once I started playing, I started loving the game. I used to play as a striker but noticing my agility on the field and my height, one of my coaches advised me to give goalkeeping a try. But I never wanted to become one. It was tough for me at the start, however, as time went on, I started adapting to it. It is true that whatever happens, happens for the best. If it was not for all of that, I wouldn’t be here,” she stated.
Fast forward to 2023, almost a decade since she picked up the hockey stick, the youngster from Manipur is on her way to Hangzhou for the 19th Asian Games where India will be vying for the Gold.
Her career has been on a steep ascent since she made her breakthrough with eye-catching displays in the 2018 Youth Olympics in Argentina, where India clinched a historic Silver medal. In the following year, she was named ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ in the 4 Nations Junior Women Invitational Tournament in Dublin. She then got an opportunity to represent the Senior Women’s National team in the FIH Pro League 2021/22. She was also part of the team which won the inaugural FIH Women’s Nations Cup in Spain in 2022.
Heading to Hangzhou with an aim to earn a direct Paris Olympics 2024 qualification, Bichu expressed excitement about being picked in the squad for Hangzhou. “It feels amazing that I will be representing India at the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022. All those years of struggle and sacrifice have finally paid off. It is every player’s dream to represent the country at the highest level, and I am grateful that my time to live this dream is here.”
To have her family in Bengaluru for the send-off ceremony hosted by Hockey India counts as one of the best moments in Bichu’s life. She said, “It was very special to have my family in Bengaluru for the Sunehra Safar ceremony organised by Hockey India. The smile on my family’s faces when they were called up on the stage to present my India jersey meant the world to me. Seeing them so happy and proud motivated me even more to perform to the best of my abilities. I had not gone home in a long time and when I hugged my mother, I remember, she started crying and hugged me tightly.”
Speaking about the team’s preparations, Bichu said, “The preparations have been going well under the guidance of Janneke Schopman. We are motivating each other every day and pushing our limits to the maximum during our training. There is a feeling of excitement too because, for some of us, this is going to be our first appearance at the Asian Games,” she added.
The goalkeeper also shed light on facing quality teams at the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022, she said, “Our aim is only on the Gold Medal. We know what is at stake here and we will not be taking any team lightly. We have been doing extensive goalkeeping sessions to improve on our mistakes. We cannot repeat the same mistakes if we have to come back home with the Gold Medal, she signed off.
On 27th September, the Indian Women’s Hockey Team will begin their campaign against Singapore at 1015 hrs IST.
HOCKEY INDIA TEAM PARTNERS
Odisha (India’s Best Kept Secret) – Major Team Partner
Sports Authority of India (SAI)
About HOCKEY INDIA
HOCKEY INDIA (HI) is the governing body with exclusive mandate to direct and conduct all activities for both men and women’s hockey in India. It is recognized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Govt. of India as the sole body responsible towards promoting Hockey in India.
Headquartered in New Delhi, Hockey India was established on 20th May, 2009 and is affiliated to the International Hockey Federation (FIH), the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Asian Hockey Federation (AHF).
Committed to the development of Hockey in the country, Hockey India with the assistance of Sports Authority of India and Department of Sports, Government of India, trains players at sub-junior, junior and senior level. The governing body engages in Coaching the coaches with International Standard certification programs, educates and equips technical officials and umpires to find a foothold in international arena, provides world-class infrastructure and International exposure for the players besides regular international competition. Hockey India has also pioneered in bringing top International hockey events to India such as the FIH Men’s World Cup in 2010 and 2018, FIH Champions Trophy in 2014, FIH Junior Men’s World Cup in 2016 and 2021, FIH Hockey World League Final in 2017. With its vision to popularize the game and constantly promote it, Hockey India brought the Indian Men’s Hockey Team into the top three in the world. Hockey India is also dedicated to getting the Indian Women’s Hockey Team into the top three in the world.
Odisha – the Eastern State of India – is known for its love for Hockey and over the years it has evolved to be the Global Hub of Hockey. The State successfully hosted the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, followed by the FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha, FIH Olympic Qualifiers Odisha, and FIH Hockey Pro League 2020-21. Odisha has previously hosted the Champions Trophy 2014 and the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017. Odisha also hosted the FIH Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup in 2021.
Kalinga Lancers, the team owned by the State, were the winners in the Hockey India League 2017. Taking a step further towards realising the dream of restoring the glory of Indian Hockey at the global level, the State is sponsoring the Indian Hockey Teams till 2033.
Odisha also hosted the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023.