Tenth standard is crunch time for kids -- a vital first major barrier to cross. Lazing around without much ambition, Rajendra M too took things seriously at that moment. The only difference was, unlike many he didn’t pick academics as his main interest but hockey.
That bold decision and six years of hard work thereafter have given special wings now to the dreams of the budding young hockey player. The 20-year-old, a product of Jude Felix Hockey Academy (JFHA), has been chosen to play for the famous Racing Club in France where he’ll be representing the side and coaching kids during the second half of the season.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said a delighted Rajendra. “This is a very big opportunity for me. When I joined St Mary’s Orphanage as a five-year-old, I never knew such a thing would happen. All of this seems a dream. I hope to make the orphanage, my school Maria Niketan and the academy proud.”
Rajendra was enrolled into the orphanage because his mother, who works as a tailor, realised she wouldn’t be able to afford him decent education (Rajendra’s dad does odd jobs like carpentry, electricals and plumbing to feed a family of five). While in the seventh standard, Rajendra first played hockey at JFHA which trains underprivileged kids from the orphanage and also the Maria Niketan school.
Initially, Rajendra lacked focus but something dawned upon him when he was in 10th standard. “Something suddenly hit me. I figured I needed to do something in my life. I just fell in love with hockey. I really can’t recall what really made that happen. Since then, hockey has been my passion, my life, my everything.”
Having displayed good talent in various inter-school meets, the midfielder was picked for the Karnataka side in the 2012 Sub-junior national championship. He then took part in the 2016 and 2017 junior nationals before donning the senior colours early this year. In 2017, he was also selected by the Centre of Excellence, SAI.
“He is one of the most hard-working guys I’ve ever seen,” said Felix, also the junior national coach. “There are quite a few talented kids in our academy but we chose him because of his hard work, dedication and commitment. He’s one of the fittest junior players around. If he continues like this, he definitely has a bright future.”
Rajendra said his main target is to wear India colours. “I have plenty of work ahead of me. Playing for India is my main goal. I’ll keep working harder and harder until I achieve that.”