Amandeep is obsessed with hockey. Even during free time when his teammates chit-chat, listen to music or just take a nap, the 21-year-old pulls out videos of old matches, eager to learn a new tactic or skill.

Amandeep has been India’s primary playmaker at the Bukit Jalil National Hockey Stadium.

But hockey hasn’t always been kind to the Haryana youngster who hails from Narwana. Amandeep had applied multiple times to the renowned Chandigarh Hockey Academy (CHA), rejected every time due to his short stature.

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Later, despite spending three years in the junior national camp, he wasn’t selected for the squad that played the 2021 Junior World Cup. Notwithstanding the disappointment, Amandeep was hopeful his colleagues would win in Bhubaneswar, but Germany ruined India’s plans by winning the semi-final 4-2.

The stage and occasion are the same. India will face six-time champions Germany in a Junior World Cup semi-final again, in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. This time, Amandeep has a chance to not just redeem himself but also avenge the loss two years back. It is also his chance to fulfil his father Vijender Singh’s dream.

“Hockey is in my blood. My father played three consecutive Nationals for Haryana from 1992-94 but never made the cut for India. His dream was to win medals for India,” Amandeep said over a video call from Kuala Lumpur.

A midfielder, Amandeep has been India’s primary playmaker at the Bukit Jalil National Hockey Stadium. While he has scored only one goal – against South Korea in the opener – he has been instrumental in almost all the 19 goals India have scored.

“The midfield is the backbone of the team because we not just create chances up front but also join strikers during full press and return to the backline when an opposition team attacks. The mental role is bigger for a midfielder,” said Amandeep, who idolises Manpreet Singh.

Amandeep’s hockey journey commenced when his parents got tired of his naughtiness. “I broke many windows while playing at home,” said Amandeep. His parents decided to channel his energy and sent the youngster to play hockey at the Navdeep Stadium in Narwana.

Amandeep learnt the tricks of the trade from his father’s friends and seniors and started playing for his state at the sub-junior level. He had heard a lot about CHA which has produced Olympic medallists Rupinder Pal Singh and Gurjant Singh apart from India internationals Dharamvir Singh and Sanjay.

But despite giving multiple trials he was never selected due to his lack of height (he stands at 163cm now). Amandeep then decided to work on fitness, which was noticed by CHA coach Gurminder Singh a few years later, who asked him to trial again. In 2015, Amandeep was finally selected.

“From the first day I noticed the talent he possessed. What made him stand out was his fitness. He is also a very confident boy and mentally very tough. He was good in shooting and always scored in domestic matches,” Gurminder said.

Under him, Amandeep started playing for Chandigarh and alternated between playing as a striker and midfielder. His skills were noticed by the national team scouts and he was roped into the junior national core group in 2018.

He made his international debut in 2019 before an ankle injury, six months of rehabilitation and Covid-19 halted him in 2020. Lack of game time meant that he wasn’t selected for the 2021 Junior World Cup.

Disappointed, Amandeep decided to improve his skills along with fitness. The result is that he is the fittest member of the current outfit. He is the only one in the squad to complete the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 1 (IR1) with the top score of 23.8 and IR2 with 22.7.

His fitness stood out as he guided India to gold at the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup and the 2023 Junior Asia Cup before being selected for the current World Cup.

Amandeep dons the important role of a trapper during penalty corners, which has resulted in six goals so far. “I was so disappointed to miss out on making the cut the previous edition, but I didn’t give up. This is an outcome of my hard work,” he said.

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