Bengaluru: Rising Indian star Mumtaz Khan spoke candidly about her hockey journey and her expectations at the Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 in a recent episode of Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series launched by Hockey India.
The dashing forward was named the FIH Rising Star of the Year 2021-2022 (Women’s) and she also won the Hockey India Asunta Lakra Award for Upcoming Player of the Year 2022; carving a niche for herself early in her career.
“My hockey journey began in school. My parents, like most parents, advised me to focus on my studies; they wanted me to succeed in life and saw sports as a distraction from my studies, so I listened. But, then came a point when I couldn’t stand by and watch my friends play and have fun anymore, so I picked up a hockey stick and joined in,” she said.
Mumtaz was so driven for the sport that she would cycle 10 kilometers daily to train at the KD Singh Babu Stadium in Lucknow to ensure she had the best facilities on her journey to become the best. Her Coach, Neelam, helped her improve her positioning and finishing skills in front of the goal, applauded her on and stood firmly behind her in support.
“My parents would find out eventually that I started playing in my school and they did not like this at first, but I just could not drop the stick anymore. I fell in love with the game. Initially, my aim was to earn a job through hockey but my Coach always believed that I could play for the country. This belief that I can represent India kept motivating me to break into the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team,” she said.
Mumtaz suffered an ACL injury on her left knee in 2019, taking her away from the sport for an extended period of time.
“The injury brought on a lot of apprehensions, I thought my career was over, to add onto that, there was a lot of pressure from parents to give up hockey. There was quite a bit of external pressure as well, my parents were told that I was flying a little too high and it was good that I am back on ground, I would have learned my lesson now,” she explained her ordeal.
“Amid all this uncertainty, came a ray of hope in the form of a letter from Hockey India stating that I will rehabilitate my injury with the Senior Team, with the best of amenities and physiotherapists. This spurred me to get back to playing for the national team as soon as I could,” she commented.
Mumtaz recovered from her injury in time for the 2022 Women’s FIH Hockey Junior World Cup in South Africa where she was India’s top goal scorer and third-highest overall with eight goals.
“My parents were very happy after the Junior World Cup. One thing my mom said later that stuck with me was, even though we do not have a son in our family, I have a daughter who is equal to a hundred sons put together in Mumtaz, these words will always sit deep with me in my heart,” she shared.
On the back of her impressive performance in the tournament, Mumtaz was also named in the squad for the Hero FIH Hockey 5s Lausanne 2022, where she scored five goals.
“I never envisioned that I would win an award so early in my career but I always hoped to do well for the team and myself. I know that I just need to work on myself and improve my game, I will reap the rewards of it at some point,” she commented on being awarded the Hockey India Asunta Lakra Award for Upcoming Player of the Year 2022.
Mumtaz will be next in action during the upcoming Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023, a qualifying event for the FIH Junior Women’s World Cup. The prestigious event is set to begin on June 2nd in Kakamigahara, Japan, and Mumtaz and Co are hopeful and confident of returning home with a medal.
“We have been practising for the last 2-3 months for the Women’s Junior Asia Cup, and we are looking to execute what we have been practising and keep our composure throughout the tournament to ensure that we come back with a medal.”
“Being a part of the Senior Women’s Squad has taught me the value of having leaders; Vandana Katariya and Rani are the forwards I look up to; I want to emulate their qualities. I know this is an opportunity for me to prove myself because everyone wants to represent India and win a medal for the country, and I am no exception.”