With India’s emphatic victory against Australia in the ongoing Test series and Barcelona’s comeback victory over PSG in the Champions League, it was easy to miss the 2017 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia happening in Thailand, where Indian women’s Ice Hockey team is one of the participating nations.
While we haven’t quite warmed up to ice hockey, a group of 20 women battled the odds today and held the tricolour high at the world stage. Lack of funding and multiple other challenges, however, did not deter the morale of the aspiring women who notched up their first international win in Bangkok. The achievement of this team, in particular, deserves more attention than anything else. Maybe because it might have been the best thing that has ever happened to them.
While it has taken India some time to arrive on the international stage, the team made its international debut last year at the 2016 Challenge Cup of Asia in Chinese Taipei, which happened to be a new competition aimed at supporting the ice hockey friendly countries in this part of the world. Their international debut did not go, as exactly planned. The team conceded 39 goals and scored five for themselves in the four games they played.
This year the story was somewhat different. After a successful crowdfunding campaign done by The Logical Indian with the support of community members, where we were able to crowdfund 32 Lakhs for the team and training in Kyrgyzstan before the competition, the character of the women was on full display in Thailand.
The match started unlike India’s opening encounter against UAE. The women kept on making repeated inroads through a porous Philippines defence during the first 20 minutes. They had several chances but could not find the back of the net. Though, the best opportunity of that period fell to the Philippines. In a rare counter attack, they received the puck in an ideal spot only, but the shot execution took a long time, and Indian goaltender Noor Jahan positioned herself well to save it.
After the first period, India regrouped well and created another opportunity. But the cross from the right was not availed. Midfield show persisted for quite some time. Although Diskit Angmo and Padma Chorol were penalised for holding and tripping an opponent, finally India broke the ice when Tsewang Chuskit slotted India’s first goal in the penultimate minute of the second period.
Two minutes into the third period, skipper Rinchen Dolma put the puck into the net to double the lead after a delightful swift move originating from Padma Yangdol. But immediately after that, Philippines equalised through Bianca Cuevas. While another shot was padded away by a diving Noor, they made it 2-2 soon after when Kayla Herbolario beautifully eliminated two of India’s defence women.
After having the lion’s share of exchanges for quite some time, India surprisingly conceded as show stopper Bianca assisted yet again in putting the Philippines in front. This was followed by India’s utter domination during which they did everything to find the equaliser. Chuskit scored her second goal to make it 3-3.
While the match was heading towards sudden death, it took a dramatic turn. In the 58th minute, a well-coordinated attack found Chuskit unmarked and she made it 4-3 with a superb angular shot. The last two minutes saw a continuous barrage of attacks from the Philippines. They had some shots on the goal, but the deep defence managed to keep their castle intact.
Passion overcame the obstacles for the girls as soon as the hooter was blown. No emotion could beat the joy of the players chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (Victory for Indian Motherland) and breaking down while singing the national anthem under the beautiful tricolour. It works for all sporting nations, and the same feeling was experienced today by the women. It was inspiring. The result was secondary.
The Logical Indian congratulates them and wishes them all the best for the future matches.