Sumrai Tete becomes India’s first female hockey player to win Dhyan Chand Award

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Profile photo of Alma Grace Barla

Alma Grace Barla

Alma Grace Barla is an independent writer and researcher who writes on issues of Adivasis. She is also author of the book "Indigenous Heroines : A Saga of Tribal Women of India". (www.almabarla.com)
Profile photo of Alma Grace Barla

August 30, 2017

New Delhi: On the occasion of National Sports Day on August 29, former India Women’s Hockey captain Sumrai Tete, from Jharkhand was conferred with the prestigious Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 by the Hon’ble President of India Shri Ramnath Kovind at a function held at Rasthrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.  Sumrai Tete is the country’s first female hockey player to receive this honor. This award is given to honour those sports persons who have contributed to sports by their performance and continue to contribute to promotion of sports after their retirement from active sporting career. Named after the legendary Indian hockey player Dhyan Chand, this award carries a cash prize of Rs 5 lakhs, a statuette, ceremonial dress and a scroll of honour. Mr. Sylvanus Dung Dung, another senior adivasi hockey player and gold medalist of Moscow Olympic (1980) also from Simdega, Jharkhand, received Dhyan Chand Award in 2016.

Born into a Kharia adivasi family in Kashira, Meromtoli, a small village in the Simdega district of Jharkhand, Sumrai Tete started playing hockey from a young age but never imagined that one day she would be on the national team. She says, “From childhood I had interest in hockey. Hockey had been played in our villages as part of recreation. My father, grandfather, and sisters, all played hockey.”

Sumrai’s parents were farmers and worked hard to send their daughters to school. She says, “The socio-economic status of our family was not very sound, we were very poor, went through lots of struggles but they never allowed us to feel that. They worked hard in the field to provide us education.”

She went to boarding school at St. Teresa Balika Madhya Vidyalay, in Samsera. There her breakthrough came when she was selected for hockey training at Balika Krida Vidyalaya, Bariatu Center and she studied at the Govt. Girls High School, Ranchi. Steadily, through hard work, she made her first entry into the national camp and, showing her potential, she was selected for the junior national team and made her first international debut in a tournament in South Korea in 1995. “I was very young. I was not nervous, but excited. My focus was only on the game, nothing else. It was a very good experience.”

Sumrai Tete, 38 year-old midfielder was the first tribal captain of the Indian Women’s Hockey Team (previously known as Field Hockey). From 1995-2006, she was an integral part of the national team, leading it several times as Captain and Vice-Captain. After recording their historic first ever victory and winning Gold at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games by defeating England (with a 3-2 win), the team went on to win the Afro-Asian Games in 2003, and the Asia Cup in 2004. Under the her captainship, the team also won Silver at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games of 2006. Sumrai has nearly 200 international caps/number of games played in more than 30 international tournaments.  From 2011-2014, she worked as a coach for the Indian Women’s Hockey Team. She now works for the South Eastern Railway, as an office superintendent at Hatia station, and as a coach for the Indian Railways Club.

Adivasi girls from Chhotanagpur have had a presence in the women’s national hockey team, ever since the 1990s. Since then nearly 70 girls have played in Hockey India and brought laurels to the country. As naturally gifted players, these girls mostly come from poor families and rural villages. Basic things such as running water, electricity, roads, transportation systems, proper education, and health care centers are not common, let alone sports facilities. Such adverse situations would lead anyone to wonder what their secret to success is. The answer, simply, is that hockey flows in their blood!

Profile photo of Alma Grace Barla

Alma Grace Barla

Alma Grace Barla is an independent writer and researcher who writes on issues of Adivasis. She is also author of the book "Indigenous Heroines : A Saga of Tribal Women of India". (www.almabarla.com)

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