Rani Rampal, one of India’s most decorated hockey players, has had a special connection with the National Games. She was first scouted for the national team back in 2007 when she was just 14 years old in the Games held at Guwahati, Assam, and her career was fast-tracked thereafter. The 28-year-old has since played more than 250 matches for India and scored over 120 goals during her illustrious career.
But the National Games platform still holds a special place in Rani’s life and the former India skipper and now the coach of India’s U-17 team is in Goa to lead defending champions Haryana in the 37th edition of the Games.
Haryana made a resounding start to their campaign at the Peddem Sports Stadium with an 8-0 victory over Tamil Nadu with Rani also getting on the scoreboard.
“National Games has a special place in my heart. I first took part in the National Games in 2007 and I was picked for the national camp based on my performance there. This is the very tournament that opened the doors for the national team for me,” said Rani, who is playing in her fourth National Games here.
“Playing for your country is the proudest moment in any sportsperson’s life. But it is always special to remember where it all started and represent your state at any platform and contribute to their success,” said Rani, who holds the record of being the youngest women’s hockey player to debut for the Indian senior team.
Rani had led the Haryana team to National Games glory last year in Gujarat soon after leading the Indian team to fourth spot in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Speaking about the importance for senior international players turning out for their state teams, Rani said, “When we were upcoming players, having a senior international player in the squad would give us added motivation. This Haryana team has made young talented players and if I presence can help them in any way to excel then what could be a better contribution from me to the cause of hockey.”
Rani was happy that Goa was hosting the National Games this year and said it reflects the growing sports culture across the country and hope that the state would produce international stars in the near future.