New Delhi: Savita Punia is waiting, waiting in hope of a call from Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's office. "Nine years is a long wait (for a job)," India's veteran hockey star says, but with much more hope than there was before November 8, when Rathore tweeted: "Will ensure she receives all the support possible from Govt."
The 27-year-old goalkeeper is fresh from Asia Cup win, where her save in the sudden-death shootout against China won India the trophy after a wait of 13 years.
But once the game was over and celebrations ended, her mind went back to the promise that's waiting to be fulfilled.
The government of Savita's home state, Haryana, had assured her of a job after the 2013 Asia Cup bronze under the 'Padak Lao, Pad Pao' (win medal, get a job) scheme, but those assurances remain plain words, leaving India's star custodian jobless ever since she made her India debut as an 18-year-old.
The 2017 Asia Cup gold gave a fillip to Savitá's fading hopes, and once the story of her grievance was voiced again by the Indian media, it reached the right ears.
"Have asked my team to obtain details on our #AsiaCup2017 star, Savita Punia. Will ensure she receives all the support possible from Govt. Our motto: #SuvidhaAurSamman," Rathore tweeted.
It gladdened the hearts of Punia family in Sirsa, where they wait for the phone to ring.
"Everybody at home was happy. He (Rathore) has said (to look into the matter), it will hopefully be done. He is himself an Olympian, he understands a sportsperson’s situation. A wait of nine years is a long wait, but his words have lifted my spirits," Savita, with over 150 international caps, said thanking Rathore, who is a silver-medal winner in shooting from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Savita still largely relies on her parents and said it's time she does something for those who helped her reach where she is today. "I have to do something for my parents, till now they are doing everything for me. So it feels bad at times," she said.
Harendra Singh, who was appointed coach of the women's team just before the Asia Cup, also thanked the Sports Minister for taking up Savita's issue.
"Thank you sir much Appreciated your quick response. Jai Hind," he had tweeted.
"I can't explain my gratitude towards Rathore, sir," Harendra said. "Savita puts a lot of hard work into her game and never lets any outside issue affect her performance. She and her team-mates deserve all the accolades and awards coming their way."
On the coaching front, Savita went on to add that it didn't take the team any time to strike coordination with Harendra, after he took over from Sjoerd Marijne, who was handed over the reins of the men's team.
"We did not face any problem. He won juniors (men) the world cup last year. Plus, he is an Indian coach and we are the Indian team, so we coordinated really well and quickly. He didn’t change our game much, just fine-tuned things and it worked out perfectly," Savita said.
The team's next big assignment is the Commonwealth Games in the first half of the New Year, and Savita will hope that the phone call she has been waiting for so patiently rings in with the arrival of 2018.