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"There were disappointments but I never gave up"- striker Mohammed Raheel on finding a place in the Indian squad

The Indians amassed 8 points from 4 matches at the Kalinga Stadium
Mohammed Raheel (Credits: Hockey India)

Mohammed Raheel dreamt of donning the colors of the Indian national hockey team ever since he was inspired to take up the game, spurred on by the trophies his father and brothers brought home.

The Karnataka lad has been representing the state at the sub-junior and junior level since his school days, and has been a resident at the SAI hostel for the last eight years.

Raheel's dream took a while to be realized, but as the eager 25-year-old mentioned over the course of an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, giving up was never an option.

This format is all about goals, and we’ll aim to score more in the games ahead to win, says Mohammed Raheel of @TheHockeyIndia. https://t.co/kujhBf4QAd
"My dad and brothers used to bring trophies home. So, the first thing was even I wanted to get those kinds of trophies myself. That's why I decided to make a career out of hockey. I studied at St. Joseph's Indian High School in Bangalore and then started playing for the school team.
"I've been playing for the Karnataka Subjuniors and Junior teams since the time I was in the ninth standard. I then got selected by the Sports Authority of India in Bangalore and I've been at SAI for 8 years. There were disappointments but I never gave up. I was selected in the past but dropped again," he asserted.

The young striker's persistence paid off as he impressed coach Graham Reid enough to find a place in the Indian team for their FIH Pro League game against New Zealand at the sprawling Kalinga Stadium.

A call to his dad informing him of his selection in the playing XI was an emotional moment, as Mohammed Raheel fervidly described.

"The first person I called up was my dad. He was in the office and replied that my selection was the best news that he had heard and how proud he was of me. He actually went on and on for a minute or two," said Raheel, stating that he preferred to speak in English unlike most of his teammates in the national side."

The Indian team is like a family - Mohammed Raheel

Raheel adds firepower to an already potent Indian forward line
Raheel adds firepower to an already potent Indian forward line

Language, though, is hardly a barrier in the tight-knit unit that constitutes the Indian men's hockey team, as the player from Bangalore explained.

"The Indian team is like a family. Everybody is close to each other. Language is not a barrier. I know Hindi too as I speak Urdu at home, but I don't speak the language that fluently," he stated.

Fellow striker and Karnataka teammate SV Sunil also lent a helping hand to Raheel when the two bumped into each other on the SAI campus. The two speedy men have also played alongside each other at the National Games.

"Sunil bhai was in the camp when I was playing the domestic circuit. I have interacted with him at the SAI camp and of course played with him during the National Games. He has been helping me out a lot," said Raheel who was the Kalinga Stadium back in 2014 to watch India face Pakistan.
Mohammed Raheel made his debut at the Kalinga Stadium where he watched India play Pakistan in 2014
Mohammed Raheel made his debut at the Kalinga Stadium where he watched India play Pakistan in 2014

Mandeep Singh and the other forwards in the side have been supportive and encouraging of Mohammed Raheel, who caught the eye of hockey fans after being selected as the Player of the Tournament in the Hockey 5's tournament in Lausanne.

Really proud and excited for my team to have won the inaugural Hero FIH Hockey5s Lausanne 2022, says Player of the Tournament, Mohammed Raheel of @TheHockeyIndia https://t.co/BGXl4AFb1k
"The other forwards in the team are really supportive. They always tell me, whatever you do, do your best. They encourage me a lot. International hockey is all about speed and fitness. We do a lot of work along with our Scientific Advisor and they train us in accordance with international standards," revealed the Team India dedebutant."

Karnataka has nurtured and produced some amazing hockey talent over the years. Much like SV Sunil and Arjun Halappa, Mohammed Raheel is confident that more players from the state will earn a place in the national side soon.

"Karnataka hockey has improved a lot and there are a lot of talented players in the side. Karnataka has won the National Games too. I feel there will be other players from Karnataka who will make it to the Indian team soon," stresses Mohammed Raheel with an uplifting blend of maturity and enthusiasm."

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Edited by Tejas Rathi
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