NEW DELHI: Recalling the struggles he faced during his comeback after being shot during a train journey in 2006, former India hockey team captain Sandeep Singh urged the sports ministry to work on building a world-class physiotheraphy and rehabiliatiion centre for athletes across all disciplines.
Sandeep was left almost paralysed after he was accidentally shot by an Railway Protection Force (RPF) jawan inside the Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi Express on August 22, 2006 as he was on his way to join the national squad due to leave for the FIH World Cup in Germany.
The bullet not only fractured his lowest rib, it also damaged his spine, kidneys and liver.
But Sandeep invoked the fighter within and made a sensational comeback to the national team after a gap of almost two years before being handed the captaincy in 2009.
"That time I was treated by the medical facilities available in the country. But if you see, no Olympic sport has such (rehabiliatiion centre) facility in our country. The facility provided by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) is not upto level of what the Europeans, Americans and the Australians have. We are way behind in this regard," Sandeep told IANS.
"(Current India goalkeeper) P.R. Sreejesh underwent surgery for his knee. He did the rehab in Delhi while the national squad was camped in Bengaluru. We should have such facilities which are near to the sports' centres. Hence, I would like to send the message regarding this to the ministry," he added.
"Moreover, there are many youngsters whose careers are lost by these injuries. And not just for the active players, for retired sportspersons also it should be made available."
Sandeep, who is out of national squad reckoning for the past few years, has decided to give back to the sport by playing mentor to budding talent.
"I want to work at grassroot level in the country. If will be happy to accpet if government comes with a project where my focus will be on coaching defence and drag-flick. Once I am done with my movie project completely, I will think about that (becoming a coach) with greater focus," the 31-year-old dragflick expert, who is nicknamed 'Flicker Singh', said.
Asked if he is thinking about a formal retirement event, Sandeep, who hails from Sahibabad district in Haryana, said he has no idea, though he felt that if Hockey India (HI) makes it happen, it will send a good message to budding players.
"If that happens it will be a good start. It will send a good message for youngsters. But an exhibition match sort of farewell event should not be just for me -- three or four players who are about to retire can also enjoy this moment. There are many players who deserve it. In recent times, there are many, including (former captains) Dhanraj Pillay, Dillip Tirkey who didn't get a proper send-off," he felt.
Sandeep's struggle to make a miraculous comeback from a career threatening injury has been immortalised in a yet to be released Bollywood biopic named "Soorma" which has popular Punjabi singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh in the lead role.
Sandeep hoped that the movie will inspire future generations of sportsmen.
"I had not thought about it. The talks were going on and I went to movie hall to watch bipic on Milkha Singh ji ("Bhaag Milkha Bhaag") where I saw the raw emotions of the audience during the scene in which showed Milkha ji had blood (in his feet), but wears spikes and runs.
"At that moment, I curiously felt that how will they (public) react when they see a hockey player making his comeback after taking a bullet in his body. That's where the idea came," the veteran defender said.
"The biopic is not just about me. It is about my story, my family's struggle which has a message for all youngsters and parents. Every parents should watch it as they will connect to it through their struggle.
"Every sportspersons go through injury, minor or major. My story is about how to come out of those injuries and the spirit of life that you live," Sandeep felt.
Sandip was also confident that Dosanjh has the talent to do justice to his character in the movie.
"He is a good actor. Apart from being a good singer, he is a dedicated person and a complete hero. It is not easy to copy one's art -- especially drag-flick in hockey is difficult," he said.
"I have trained him as well as I could and he has improved his hockey skills day by day and most of his action scenes were done by himself.
"I was deeply involved in the process as I wanted the biopic to be as real as it could be to real life story. Earlier, in many biopics in our country, the difference between reality and on screen was huge. So, I have not compromised anything in making it real," he added.
Sandeep signed off by saying that the country should not be shocked if national hockey team brings a medal home from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
"We have vastly improved in the last four-five years. We have shown that we can defeat anyone. I can feel we can win an Olympic medal in 2020 and that should not be a shock," he said.