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KIYG 2022: Chak De India to Khelo India – The Kerketa story

Gwalior, Feb 3 (IANS) The movie Chak De India, released in 2007, is one of India’s classics based on hockey or sports. In the film, Nisha Nair played the role of Soimoi Kerketa, who appeared on the film screen as a player from Jharkhand. That film influenced many girls from Simdega, considered to be the nursery of hockey in Jharkhand, some of whom are real-life Kerketas.

The Jharkhand women’s hockey team, which has reached here to play in the Khelo India Youth Games (Madhya Pradesh), has two Kerketa’s. Both of them are called Rajni and aspire to play for India and both of them have fathers who are farmers. The only difference is that one is participating in Khelo India for the first time and the other for the fifth time.

Rajni Kerketa (Junior) hails from Bariatu near Ranchi and is participating in the Khelo India Youth Games for the first time. The 14-year-old is excited about it as she does not know much about the Khelo India Youth Games and the facilities available there.

She said: “This is my first Khelo India Youth Games. I am thrilled about it. I live in Bariatu Hostel and practice there. I have heard a lot about Khelo India Youth Games from Didi (senior players). I’m thrilled to be playing here.”

On the other hand, Rajni Kerketa (Sr) lives in Eklavya and has reached Gwalior for her fifth Khelo India. She has played in Khelo India Youth Games four times from 2018 to 2021.

Rajni said that the Jharkhand team had secured the second position in Delhi, Pune and Guwahati. The team got bronze in Panchkula. “We have got three silver and one bronze so far. I scored 8 goals in Panchkula. I became the top hockey player of the tournament,” she said.

Rajni said that she started playing when she was in fourth standard and joined Ranchi Excellency Academy in 2022, which players colloquially call Eklavya Academy. She said that her father is the main source of inspiration for her to play hockey. Rajni also said that she considers Rani Rampal, the captain of the Indian women’s hockey team as her role model.

Rajni, who played sub-junior, junior and senior nationals in Kerala last year, said, “Rani didi is my role model. I want to be like her. It is my dream to play for the country and I want to earn respect for my family.”

Regarding KIYG, Rajni said that it is a useful platform for new players, where competitions are held within the system of international standard. She said: “This is my fifth Khelo India Youth Games. I have seen a change in it every time. A lot has changed in the journey from Delhi to Panchkula. Players get exposure through this and they get to know each other well.”

Khelo India Youth Games 2022 is being hosted by Madhya Pradesh, where water sports have been included as a new sport. More than 6000 players are participating across 27 sports being held in 8 cities of Madhya Pradesh and a track cycling event New Delhi.