Ahead of Asian Games, Hooda recollects his first tryst with the Indian jersey

Deepak Hooda has become one of the cornerstones of Indian kabaddi over the years. Starting off his career as a raider, the versatile player has essayed many roles; the most recent being that of a cover defender in Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018. His guile in raiding and strength in defence make him an asset for any team, but the wait for an Indian call-up was a long one for Hooda and a period filled with nervous anticipation.

“Before any major event there are trials conducted. There is a procedure where there are camps for several months,” explains Hooda, “During this entire process, I waited longingly for the time I will finally earn the right to wear the Indian jersey.

“Sometimes, even if you are confident of making it after performing well in the trials, you still feel some nervous anticipation before finally getting the jersey. All I could think of was when I will wear it and when I will represent the country.”

Hooda’s dream of representing India first came to fruition in 2016 when he was selected to be part of the squad for the South Asian Games. “There can be no better moment in a sports person’s life than when they are representing their country,” says Hooda beaming with pride, “We cannot forget the moment when we first wear the Indian blue jersey.”

The Indian team went on to win a Gold medal at the event. For Hooda, it was another feather in his cap. He was the second-highest paid player in the inaugural VIVO Pro Kabaddi season and played a role in many memorable campaigns as a part of the Indian kabaddi team as well.

Now, Hooda is once again preparing to be a part of the event that changed his life as a kabaddi player as the Indian team eyes an eighth kabaddi Gold medal at the upcoming Asian Games. The pressure is high but so, Hooda says, is the confidence.

“We have just finished Kabaddi Masters Dubai and performed well there throughout, so our confidence is quite high. The fitness levels are great; in fact I would say they have improved now. That has also boosted our morale. The event added to our motivation to win at the Asian Games and the preparations are now going on in full swing,” says a visibly happy Hooda.

In parting, he urged kabaddi fans to rally behind the #RaidForGold initiative by Mashal Sports in order to let the Indian kabaddi team know that their fans are always with them.