Hockey runs in Sukhjeet Singh’s family – his father Ajit Singh served the Punjab Police hockey team for more than two decades as a midfielder. Hailing from Ganesh Nagar Rama Mandi village in Jalandhar district, Sukhjeet took his initial hockey lessons from his father. His hockey career received a new leash of life when he joined the Punjab National Bank in 2016 and since then there has been no looking back. “My father has been a pillar of support – he has slogged a lot to develop me into a hockey player and I can never forget the hardships he had to endure,” says Sukhjeet in an exclusive chat with Hockey Passion.
Sukhjeet is a bit of late bloomer – not often in Indian hockey we see someone make his senior international debut at the age of 25 but such was his impressive domestic circuit performance that Hockey India selectors and coaches could not overlook it. He has been consistency-personified in the domestic circuit – he was at his goal-scoring best in the 1st Hockey India Senior Men Inter-Department National Championship, where he emerged as the top goal-scorer with 8 goals.
The Jallandhar lad also hit the right notes in Surjit Hockey Tourney, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hockey Tournament, Senior Nehru Hockey Tourney, and 1st Chhaju Ram Memorial Senior Hockey Tournament.The senior international debut of the talented forward was like an icing on the cake – he scored a fine tap-in goal off a Jaskaran Singh pass from the right. “I was very jittery since it was my first international debut match. Playing for the country is an honour and no words can sum how I felt but I won’t deny that there were butterflies in my stomach. Scoring my first international goal on my debut match is something I will remember for a long time to come,” he quips.
The Punjab National Bank-employed striker is fast adapting to the team’s requirements. “Our coach sir tells us to focus on a structure around which to develop our game. I’m constantly talking to my seniors like Manpreet bhai, Lalit bhai among others to understand my role in the side. There is so much to learn from their experience.”
He elaborates on the pep talk offered by coach Graham Reid. “Graham Reid sir tells me that my tackling and pace are my strengths – he motivates and supports me all the time.”
Competition for places in the side is something that doesn’t perturb Sukhjeet. “My job is to give my best for the team and I focus on that. Competition for places is healthy for the team. It’s all about turning in your best on the pitch,” he says.
Never before the national team featured four players from Punjab National Bank. “All four of us (Mandeep Mor, Shamsher Singh, Abhishek and me) try to motivate and support each other and do well for the country,” he says.
According to Punjab National Bank Coach Romesh Pathania, Sukhjeet can go places. “He has all the attributes of a forward – he possesses pace and excellent ball control and can be lethal inside the striking circle. Sukhjeet is well versed with stopping short corner injections and he has served Punjab National Bank well in this area,” insists Pathania.