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From playing with a broken stick to Tokyo selection, Shamsher Singh puts Attari on the Olympic hockey map | Hockey News – Times of India

June 21, 2021

NEW DELHI: Attari’s proximity to the India-Pakistan border at Wagah gives the village its identity world over. The scope of that identity was augmented last week with a sporting backdrop, when Shamsher Singh became the first hockey player from Attari to be picked in an Indian Olympic team.
“This is a different kind of pride.” Shamsher’s humility laden with a sense of disbelief reflected in those simple words. But just over 100 km from Attari, there was no such air of doubt at the famous Surjit Hockey Academy (SHA) in Jalandhar.
Usually teeming with young players, and teenage giggles here and there, the SHA is a picture of silence since the pandemic struck. Timesofindia’s call to coach Avtar Singh was, thus, re-routed to his village.
“He [Shamsher] called me after his selection for the Olympics. I congratulated him. He was very humble. He said he was not sure if he stood a chance but it happened,” Avtar told

Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
Shamsher was enrolled at the SHA when he was around 11 years old. The next six years of his life he spent at the academy, which has a remarkable structure where the kids who are enrolled are also admitted to school to complete their studies.
Shamsher, who was above average in academics, benefitted from the system. He needed it too, as he came from a humble background and was dependent on his father’s meagre earnings from farming.
“I got interested in hockey watching some senior boys playing at the ground in Attari. I was around nine years old then, in fourth standard,” Shamsher said talking to
“There were problems, like for any village family. The main trouble I faced was getting a hockey stick and shoes.”
Shamsher’s struggles were reflected in a short instance he recalled from his childhood stays.
With no access to quality equipment in Attari, the first hockey stick he bought had to be kept intact during training at the muddy, uneven ground. But quite often, it would break.
“Whenever it used to have a crack, my father would fix it with nails and tape it. For two years, I played with that broken stick,” recalled Shamsher who plays as a midfielder/forward for India and has 6 international caps to his name so far.
“The family supported me, but we didn’t have enough knowledge to go to Jalandhar or Amritsar and buy a stick from there. There was nothing near Attari then. But never did anyone from the family say no to me for playing the sport.” Shamsher told
Shamsher’s growing seriousness towards hockey convinced his father that with proper training his son could get even better. He started looking out, and the advice he got from everyone was to take Shamsher to SHA.
Shamsher cleared the trials.

Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
“He is very sincere, always. He would do what was told to him. You could be rest assured. Every coach likes this quality in a player,” said SHA coach Avtar, who then went on to explain what makes Shamsher tick as a player.
“He is basically a double-role player. He can attack and has excellent defensive capabilities as well. When he used to play with us, he was part of our system where we want the player to contribute in both attack and defence, so that he can form part of the attack and also shore up the defence if needed.
“That’s the reason he has been selected in the Olympic team. He is a utility player. We always built him like that.” Avtar further told
Talking about building Shamsher, he was part of the scouting exercise that coach Harender Singh conducted while building his 2016 Junior World Cup team that eventually lifted the trophy in Lucknow. Dilpreet Singh and Hardik Singh, along with Shamsher, were included in that camp. None eventually made the cut for the final 18, but it proved to be the launchpad for all three.
That champion junior team of 2016 had 11 players from SHA, and the trend will continue at the Olympics in Tokyo, where six SHA players will wear the India jersey on the biggest stage: Captain Manpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Hardik, Dilpreet and Shamsher.
If you include the standby players Krishan Pathak, Simranjit Singh and Varun Kumar — who are also SHA products, then that number grows from six to nine.
After missing the 2016 Junior World Cup bus, Shamsher eventually made his junior India debut at the Four-Nations Invitational in Valencia the same year. He had to wait for another three years to earn his first India senior cap at the test event in Tokyo in 2019.
His steady growth also earned him a job with the Punjab National Bank.

Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
“I was giving my best ever since I was selected for the [senior] national camp,” said Shamsher. “I could feel my progress, but because of Covid, I didn’t get to play enough matches that could have helped me more.”
Shamsher was part of the Indian team that travelled to Argentina for their two-match FIH Pro League fixtures.
Shamsher, who basically plays as an attacking midfielder, is listed as a forward in the squad list for Olympics. His selection ahead of the seasoned striker Akashdeep Singh did raise a few eyebrows, but Shamsher wants to steer clear of any selection controversies.
Interestingly, all the players selected in the India forward-line, in the 16 man squad, will make their Olympic debut in Tokyo.
“I can’t say anything about team selection. But it’s not that there is a lack of experience in the forward-line. Mandeep and Lalit [Upadhyay] may not have played at the Olympics before, but they have enough international experience,” the 24-year-old Shamsher told
Shamsher realises what he has already achieved is no mean feat , ahead of the likes of Akashdeep and veteran SV Sunil.
It will be a test especially for him and the other nine debutants in the squad, more so when the stakes get higher and pressure mounts deeper into the competition at Tokyo.
Shamsher had a very calculated answer to that.
“I would be honest. I never thought I would reach here, but one thing is that I started with passion and I stay passionate about hockey,” he said, before adding credentials to his name.
“I am the first international (hockey) player from Attari.”
That bit from Shamsher, however, couldn’t be verified, but coach Avtar stood by it.
“As far as I know, he (Shamsher) is the first international hockey player from Attari.” Avtar said.

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