Dipta Joshi (Mumbai)
At the Hero Asian Champions Tournament 2021 in Dhaka last December, India’s national men’s hockey team goalie Naib Subedar Suraj Karkera (26) was conferred the ‘best goalkeeper’ award after Team India beat arch-rivals Pakistan 4-3 to win the bronze medal.
A boy wonder who took naturally to field hockey when he was only nine, Suraj was selected to play for the First XI of his alma mater Children’s Academy, Malad (Mumbai). Under the tutelage of coach Marzban Patel, young Suraj quickly developed excellent goal-keeping skills to the extent that Patel recommended his name for a national junior hockey camp in Delhi in 2015 and introduced him to the world of professional hockey.
It’s noteworthy that Marzban Patel, a Dronacharya awardee (2019) has mentored and trained several olympians and continues to train Suraj.
Suraj made his debut in the national junior hockey team in 2015. “I saved a penalty shot and enabled India to win the Junior Asia Cup 2015 against Pakistan,” he recalls. Two years and 33 international tournaments later, Suraj donned national colours as member of India’s gold-medal winning squad at the Asia Cup 2017. Impressed with his achievements, the Indian Army offered him the post of junior commissioned officer which he has since accepted. Currently, he serves with the Bombay Sappers — a regiment of the corps of engineers.
The only child of civil contractor Harishchandra Karkera, and his wife Ashalata, a beautician, Suraj believes in the power of education and recently completed his commerce undergrad degree from Mumbai’s Rizvi Educational Complex. “My career in sport is as important to me as education which I know will take me a long way,” says Suraj.
With an eye on the ongoing F1H Hockey Pro League 2021-22 tournament, Suraj has intensified his training to a rigorous daily regimen of six hours at Bengaluru’s Sports Authority of India. “My ultimate dream is to bring home an Olympics gold and the Men’s F1H World Cup,” which might well come true for this gritty last line of defence player par excellence.
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