New Delhi: An Olympic or a World Cup medal normally changes the fortunes of an athlete. Will it for the bronze medal winning hockey girls? They are not so sure, and worried about their livelihood.
The historic bronze from the Monchengladbach junior World Cup has definitely brought them under the spotlight, but they wonder how long will they be basking under it.
For most, the Rs.1 lakh cash award will mean little as eight members of the squad don`t even have a job and they shudder thinking of the grind to make ends meet.
"We are happy with what we have achieved. People want to talk to us, interview us, take photos. All this is fine, but unless the success changes our life for the better, the Rs.1 lakh doesn`t mean much for us," Manjeet Kaur, whose father is a farmer in Shahbad, Kurukshetra, said.
"Already, Rs.10,000 has already been cut as tax and much of the remaining Rs.90,000 would be utilised for buying better equipment and gear. I hope I can save some for my father, who has worked so hard to support my brother and me," she said.
The winning Indian men`s team of the cricket U-19 World Cup 2012 each received Rs.20 lakh. Not taking anything away from their performance, it should be remembered that they have won it a third time.
The divide between cricket and hockey and more importantly men and women, in this case boys and girls is so huge that some of the girls resent it.
Most of these girls have faced hardships that many other sportspersons may not have experienced. They play with borrowed shoes and sticks from their seniors and in most cases the equipment is either torn or worn.
"My parents told me that our villagers told them that they are really proud of our achievement, and we are thrilled at that. And then, why is it that achievements of the girls are never equated with those of the boys," Navneet Kaur, 17, one of the youngest lot, said.
"When the boys team finished third in the Asia Cup and failed to qualify for the World Cup, they were each given a Tab (Tablet/Computers). While we finished second and hence managed to qualify for the World Cup, we were given a souvenir cup made for the 2010 Commonwealth Games," she said.
Navneet, whose father is an AC mechanic, said the family`s financial position is making her think whether she should continue playing hockey or think of securing her future by doing something else.
"I`m still without a job and I badly want to support my family. I know what my father has done for me to get me to this level and I want to return the favour. Hockey has done a lot for me, but if things carry on like this I might have quit and start looking at other avenues," she lamented.
Not too different is the case of the World Cup`s MVP (Most Valuable Player), Rani Rampal. At least the 18-year-old has a job, even if it is a clerk`s in the Railways.
"Things are certainly a lot better for me since I have a job. I no longer have to worry about buying shoes or sticks. Even now our shoes only last about two months, so every other month we have to get shoes worth Rs.8,000, the basic synthetic turf shoes.
"My salary is Rs.10,000, but now I hope to get a better job with the Haryana government," said Rani, whose father is a cart-puller.