I was a german international hockey player and I now want to give back something to those who need it the most. I believe that sports is very important in everybody’s life. My aim is to combine sports and education to create healthy and intelligent students. Observing India for quite some time now, I believe that this is the key to success. Most of the sports people in the country are not educated and they suffer when they stop being active as they cannot manage themselves and did not get the chance to be educated.
The other side is that modern society is becoming more intelligent, but also more over weight as we are consuming unhealthy fast food. Pupils are being dropped off and picked up at the school gate and spend too much time in front of the TV and computer. It is not fashionable to do sports. But it has been proven that a healthy body studies much better and faster and that the challenge and the adrenalin from participating in sports is also a good ingredient to develop a good personality. In Germany for example if you go for a job interview, they will look into your CV and search for social activities and sports.
modern society is becoming more intelligent, but also more over weight as we are consuming unhealthy fast food.
I was running my own travel agency back in Germany, creating tailor-made holidays for individuals going to India, Indonesia and the Philippines. One day I came to a little village in Rajsthan, half way between Agra and Jaipur, where the mother of my Indian business partner was born. We thought our clients could have lunch with the family there and see the real India. I fell in love with the place and we collected some funds and supported the local schools. We provided English classes in the afternoons and after some visits I decided to bring some hockey sticks as I thought that would be nice for the kids who had nothing for themselves and no vision in life.
That was a great success but also a difficult task as I didn’t speak the language and they were all quite undisciplined. So I showed them Chakde India to give them an idea how this should look like later on. That was in 2010. I asked myself what I wanted in life and I decided that it would be great if one day I would look back on my work and have helped some of these kids to have a better future. So I sold everything in Germany and moved to India in that little, conservative, remote village.
In 2013 I opened my own school with a local partner as I felt I could help improve the quality of teaching that was given in the village schools. Kids we still being physically punished by the teacher and 30 children were squeezed into a little room, learning not much more than repeating what the teacher said. After a year I had lots of trouble with my local partner and it was impossible to stay in that place. I was afraid to lose the kids if I moved as that would have broken my heart. I made a very hard decision and moved to a nearby village. I bought two vehicles, reopened the school and most of the hockey kids followed me.
In May 2014, I took five of the best boys between the ages of 13-15 years with me to Germany. They played there in German clubs and stayed with local families. That was the biggest success I ever had. It was so satisfying to see the boys playing with other German boys, to see them going to school with them, eating our food, living our life and enjoying our sports culture.
At home in Rajasthan in our Hockey Village we finally managed to buy land so that we could lay out the second hand astro turf that I imported from Germany. That time the government provided some land and money for us to make that ground, but the local villagers and politicians were filing an objection against me and my project. So I had to claw back and store the astro turf somewhere. That astro turf will give another boost to our children and soon we will reach the top of the Indian hockey world. In our school we are teaching the little ones from kindergarten to class two with a tailor-made teaching concept. We have lots of colourful games and teach in very small classes.
Tell us about any current projects
We desperately need more support for our hockey ground. We need to construct a base and need minimum 15 lakhs for that. Without that turf we are nowhere.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
My biggest challenge was, that the girls started wearing the hockey skirts that I was tailoring for them. Especially for the girls in that conservative area it is a huge challenge to do sports. Most of them were never running in their life, and we take them out for tournaments all over the country. They get exposure and are growing in self confidence. I am very proud of the girls.
Where do you see Indian Hockey?
I feel that hockey is improving to another level. Still – there is not much work done at the grass routes level. The image of the game has to be improved. People should not do sports because they can earn money out of it – they should do sports because they love it! Germany has a non professional hockey team where all players are studying and earning their daily bread and butter, but we are at the top of the world, because we are disciplined and because we have a lot of compassion for the game. India is the best paid team in the world, but they are hardly educated and they have only hockey in their life – nothing else. I think that has to be changed. In some two or three years I will have the proof with my kids that the mixture of sports and education is the key to success.
The smiling faces of my village kids are worth more than any money in this world.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
That as a white woman in such a conservative place, I could make a change and people could start believing in me.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
I would live in my penthouse in Berlin, drive my Audi TT, run my travel business, travel the world but would miss out the most important thing in life: satisfaction because it feels so good to give back. The smiling faces of my village kids are worth more than any money in this world.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I never really had any idols. I also have no religion. I am a human being – that’s all. I love the thoughts of the Dalai Lama. He is my inspiration.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully some sponsors in India so that we can lay out our astro turf now and many more hockey villages all over the country.
I started playing hockey at the age of six, played several nationals in my youth and was selected for the German sub junior national squad at the age of 16. I only played for a few months as I was injured with a serious back injury. After surgery I recovered and moved to Berlin where I studied fashion design and played primary league for the Berlin Sports Club. Later, I did my second education in Tourism Marketing. I started coaching young people at the age of 14 and helped produce many national players and two international female players for Germany.
This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Mumbai committee member, Abhishek Chandola.