Meet the 20 players representing India in Chile

Former Indian international Tushar Khandker is the head coach.

The FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, the tenth edition of this biennial championship, is underway in Santiago, Chile. This prestigious tournament, organised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), showcases the talent of U-21 women’s field hockey teams from around the globe. The competition, which runs from 29th November to 10th December, is a testament to the growing popularity and competitive nature of women’s field hockey.

Tournament has a rich history, having been played since 1989. Over the years, it has seen the rise of several dominant teams. The Netherlands leads the pack with four victories, followed by Korea and Argentina. Germany has also tasted success with a single title win.

This year, all eyes are on the Indian team as they aim to secure their maiden FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup title. Their best finish in the tournament came in 2013 in Germany when they clinched the third position. The team’s performance in the last event in South Africa, where they finished fourth, has set high expectations for this year’s competition.

Here is a detailed profile of Indian Squad for the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup 2023:

Khusboo (Goalkeeper)

Name: KhushbooAge: 21Position: GoalkeeperHome State: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Khushboo, hailing from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, stands tall at 20 as a goalkeeper for the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team. Her journey in hockey started reluctantly, favouring badminton and cricket initially. However, fate intervened when she attended a summer camp in 2013, led by a friend’s persuasion. Quick to adapt, within days, Khushboo exhibited remarkable dribbling skills. In 2015, she became the first girl to practice at the MP Boys Academy, a breakthrough leading her to the Junior Nationals camp in 2017. Her exceptional skills earned her recognition in international tournaments, from Belgium tours to the Youth Olympics in 2018, where she secured a Silver medal. However, in 2022, during a match against Ireland, a challenging moment arose with an ACL injury, launching her into a rigorous rehab phase due to which she missed out on a berth in the Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 in Japan, where India emerged victorious. Khushboo’s indomitable spirit stands out amidst adversity. Her determination remained unwavering despite financial constraints, relying on her father’s support, who worked as an auto driver to provide her with the necessary gear. Facing societal norms that discouraged girls from playing, her mother emerged as her strongest advocate. Talking about playing in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Khushboo said, “Though my journey has been riddled with challenges, every setback has fuelled my determination to stand stronger. The FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 isn’t just a tournament; it’s a testament to resilience. I’m ready to guard our aspirations on the field, representing not just a team, but the unswerving spirit that drives us forward.”

Madhuri Kindo (GK)

Name: Madhuri KindoAge: 21Position: GoalkeeperHome State: Odisha Madhuri Kindo’s journey in hockey began in 2011, and by 2012, she found herself at the Sports Hostel in Panposh. Inspired by her brother, who had already enrolled in hockey, Madhuri initially joined as a defender but eventually transitioned to become a goalkeeper, showcasing her athletic prowess. Hailing from a farming family, Madhuri’s journey has been fueled by the unwavering support of her family, particularly her brother, who eased her way to the Sports Hostel in Panposh. Their encouragement led her to rapidly ascend through the ranks of Indian Hockey.

Excelling in Sub Junior Nationals and Junior Nationals for Odisha, Madhuri quickly became one of the youngest players to represent Odisha in the Senior Nationals. Her standout performance in the Khelo India League for Odisha in 2021 earned her well-deserved call-up to the Junior National Camp. Making her debut for India in the test series against South Africa, Madhuri found the experience challenging but transformative. As a goalkeeper, she attributes her growth to the invaluable lessons learned in international matches, emphasizing the importance of composure. Her participation and exceptional performance in India’s historic Junior Asia Cup triumph further enhanced her confidence. Looking up to the stalwart Savita, Madhuri credits her with imparting crucial advice on building mental resilience and staying calm in high-pressure situations. With the opportunity to represent India at the Junior World Cup, Madhuri Kindo is driven by the goal of making her team, family, and country proud, a testament to her dedication and aspirations in the world of Indian hockey. “I aim to make my team, family, and country proud at the Junior World Cup. It’s not just about hockey; it’s about dedication and fulfilling my dreams for India,” Madhuri said after making the squad for the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Neelam (Defender)

Name: NeelamAge: 20Position: DefenderHome State: Kaimri, Haryana Neelam’s hockey journey began when she was just a schoolgirl in the 4th grade. Her elder sister and cousin sisters were her early inspirations. They would leave their homes to pursue the sport they loved, and young Neelam was determined to follow in their footsteps. Despite being the youngest and hearing the occasional “you’re too small,” Neelam’s unwavering spirit led her to join their ventures on the field. It was in her village of Kaimri in Haryana that her love for hockey was kindled, watching her cousin’s sisters play. The transition to full-fledged hockey was not immediate. Neelam’s early forays were marked by trials and tribulations. However, her undying passion for the sport and an unwavering belief in her abilities pushed her to persevere. The family’s support played a pivotal role, with her father, mother, sister, and brother backing her dreams. Neelam’s father even stepped in to provide coaching when needed, showing immense faith in her potential. Her journey saw several injuries, but she never let them deter her from her ultimate goal. Neelam’s initial years were a financial struggle. Her family faced their share of hardships, with money being scarce. But through it all, they persevered. With her sister’s job and brother’s support, the family overcame these challenges. Today, Neelam stands as a tenacious defender, a transformation from her days as a striker. Her dedication led her to represent Haryana on various platforms, accumulating medals and distinctions in Sub Junior, Junior, and Senior National Championships due to which she was selected for the Junior National Camp in SAI Bengaluru in 2022. In 2023, Neelam was included in the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team that clinched the Junior Asia Cup in Kakamigahara, Japan. The 20-year-old played six matches and netted three goals in the tournament. Also, Neelam was part of the team that took part in the 2023 4 Nations Junior Women’s Invitational Tournament (Düsseldorf), where she played four games and scored a goal. Expressing her excitement to play in the forthcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Neelam said, “Stepping onto the world stage, amidst the thunderous cheers and the beat of the game, I’m fuelled with excitement and determination to leave every ounce of passion on the field at the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. It’s not just a tournament; it’s a stage where dreams meet reality.”

Preeti (Defender)

Name: Preeti (Captain)Age: 20Position: DefenderHome State: Sonepat, Haryana Embarking on her hockey journey in 2014, when prompted by friends of hers who played the sport, she fell in love with hockey early on. As the daughter of a mason, she saw hockey as a vehicle for change and employment opportunities. She faced a career-threatening ankle injury in 2016 while she was a member of the Pritam Siwach Hockey Academy. Hindered by poor medical care and lack of awareness, her injury deteriorated, and she underwent ankle rod implantation for stability.

After a year and a half hiatus, her resilient return saw her represent Haryana at the 8th Hockey India Junior Men National Championship 2018 in Madhya Pradesh. Her standout performance at the Junior Nationals earned her call to the Indian Junior Women’s camp, marking the beginning of a long journey. Debuting for the Junior Indian team in 2019 against France, she also played a crucial role in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2021, where India secured the 4th position. The zenith of her career arrived as she captained India to their maiden Junior Asia Cup title. She was also awarded Player of The Tournament for her performance. Despite her primary role as a defender, she seamlessly extends support from the midfield when the situation demands. Her unwavering motivation comes from her family, especially her father, who provides solace in moments of self-doubt. Taking inspiration from Indian Captains Savita and Harmanpreet Singh, she aspires to emulate their leadership style, embodying their spirit of determination. Before heading for the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Preeti said, “The confidence within us is high. We’ve dedicated ourselves to addressing our weaknesses, honing our strengths, and I have no doubt that we are well-prepared for the tournament.”

Jyoti Singh (Defender)

Name: Jyoti SinghAge: 19Position: DefenderHome State: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh Jyoti Singh, a 19-year-old hockey player hailing from Gwalior is a defender by heart and a midfielder by versatility. She started playing hockey at the age of 12 and joined Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy to acquire the strength and skill required to excel in the game. Jyoti’s journey into hockey was inspired by her familial ties to the sport—her father Dheeraj Singh Parihar, an international athlete, and her cousin sister, Anuja Singh, who is a hockey player herself and also had been part of the Senior National Camp. Jyoti’s entry into the Junior National Camp came in 2022 after she performed brilliantly at the first Hockey India Junior Academy Nationals in Bhubaneswar in 2021. Her first international tour to Ireland where the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team played friendly matches, was a stroke of luck for the young defender as she was named in standbys for the tour but got picked in the squad after a player was injured. Nevertheless, donning the Indian colours filled her with exhilaration and a sense of achievement. Jyoti was also part of the team that participated in the 2023 4 Nations Junior Women’s Invitational Tournament in Germany. Jyoti draws motivation from role models like Reena Khokhar and Ishika Chaudhary, whose playing styles and prowess inspire her on the field. She credits her family’s unwavering support and the coaching staff’s guidance as pillars in her journey, helping her navigate the inevitable ups and downs of a sports career.

Ropni Kumari (Defender)

Name: Ropni KumariAge: 20Position: DefenderHome State: Jharkhand Ropni started playing hockey when she was 8 years old. She was introduced to the sport by her relatives, who used to play hockey. They motivated her to pick up the sport so that she could move ahead in life with the help of sport. She started playing Hockey at Simdega Academy. Then she moved to Ranchi Academy and began training over there. Ropni received constant support from her family in pursuing the sport. Ropni made her Junior Nationals debut for Hockey Jharkhand at the 12th Hockey India Junior Women National Championship 2022 in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, and helped her side win a Silver medal. She also featured for Ranchi University at the 2nd Khelo India University Games 2021 in 2022 and played for Jharkhand at the 4th Khelo India Youth Games 2021. Because of her good performances, Ropni was selected for Jharkhand’s team at the 36th National Games 2022, Gujarat, and then she made her Senior Nationals debut in 2023 in Kakinada and helped Jharkhand secure a Bronze medal. In the same year, Ropni was selected for the Junior Women’s National Camp. At the National training camp that she joined in April 2023, she struggled a bit with the English language, but with the help of her coaches and teammates, started to adjust to the surroundings. She is now training at SAI Centre in Bengaluru. She made her debut for the Junior Women’s Hockey Team at the Junior Women’s Asia Cup 2023 which she describes as a memorable experience. She was helped by the defenders in the senior team. She was initially scared but slowly and steadily gained confidence. “Competing with some of the top Asian and European nations over the past year has been a learning experience for me and for our team which has helped us in preparing for the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. It is an honour for me to represent India in the Junior World Cup this year, and I am looking forward to repaying the faith that the coaches and the support staff have shown in me,” Ropni said ahead of the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Mahima Tete (Defender)

Name: Mahima TeteAge: 20Position: MidfielderHome State: Simdega, Jharkhand Hailing from the tranquil village of Barkichhapar in Simdega, Jharkhand, Mahima Tete’s passion for hockey was ignited by her sister, sparking a journey that saw her emerge as a promising defender for the national team. Mahima, whose father is a farmer and mother is a homemaker, began her hockey journey in 2012, diving into the sport under the guidance of her elder sister, Salima Tete, who is herself a hockey player and part of the Indian Women’s Hockey Team. Mahima’s talent blossomed through local tournaments, and in 2013-14, she joined Simdega Hostel, honing her skills and cementing her place in the national circuit. Her family’s unwavering support for the sport resonates in her father and brother’s involvement in hockey, reflecting a shared passion that courses through the village of Barkichhapar. Mahima’s transition from local tournaments to the Junior Nationals was marked by impressive performances, earning her a spot in the Junior National Camp. Her journey exemplifies dedication and perseverance, overcoming obstacles with an unwavering focus on her ultimate goal: to represent her state and country with pride. Encouragement and mentorship from her elder sister Salima Tete have been pivotal, guiding the 20-year-old midfielder through challenges, motivating her to rectify mistakes, and fuelling her determination to ascend further in the sport. Her relentless pursuit of excellence aligns with her dream to join the senior national team, fostering aspirations to play alongside her sister on a grander stage. The victorious experience at the Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 in Japan has instilled in Mahima a hunger for more triumphs, aiming for nothing less than a Gold medal at the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. Her unwavering commitment and passion for hockey, coupled with familial support, epitomize her determination to rise from her humble roots and leave an indelible mark on the Indian hockey landscape. As she envisions a future donning the colours of the senior national team, Mahima’s role as a defensive midfielder, orchestrating plays from the back, fuels her sense of achievement when setting up scoring opportunities for her teammates, solidifying her conviction to contribute significantly to team victories. Sharing her views on playing in the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Mahima said, “Representing India at the Women’s Junior World Cup will be the pinnacle of my journey so far. It’s not just about playing; it’s about carrying the dreams and aspirations of an entire nation. I’m determined to give my all, motivated by the support of my family and my sister’s guidance. We aim not just for victory, but to script a story of resilience and triumph on the world stage.”

Manju Chorsiya (Midfielder)

Name: Manju ChorsiyaAge: 21Position: MidfielderHome State: Sonepat, Haryana Manju comes from a family of 5, she has two elder brothers and her father runs a small shop, while her mother is a homemaker. The brothers work as an accountant and a graphic designer respectively. Her eldest brother made her watch Chak de India and that inspired her to pick up the hockey stick. In 2008 she started going along with her neighbours to play hockey in a nearby ground. Soon she found her way to Pritam Siwach Hockey Academy. She had complete support from her parents when she decided to join the academy, but there were a few monetary problems along the way. She belongs to a middle-class family, economically, and it was difficult to afford all the hockey equipment but her father did the best he could to make sure she had all she needed and this support from the family and Pritam helped her pull through. She was selected for the Junior Women’s camp in 2016 but was unsuccessful in making the cut to the Indian Team and was subsequently dropped from the Nation Camp. But Manju was determined to make it back to the Indian setup and after numerous National Championships her performance in the 2021 Junior National ensured her spot in the National Camp. After returning to the camp she was selected in the squad that toured Ireland and South Africa and was part of the squad that created history by winning their maiden Junior Asia Cup. Manju used to play as a forward before but has started playing as a midfielder since joining the national setup and is enjoying the switch. Since the switch, she has come to idolize Manpreet and Sushila Chanu. “It is a player’s dream to represent his/her country at the highest level. I feel blessed to represent India at the World Cup. I will give my 100% and hope to bring back laurels to the country and make my parents proud,” she commented on the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Jyoti Chhatri (Midfielder)

Name: Jyoti ChhatriAge: 20Position: MidfielderHome State: Rourkela, Odisha Her Father Bhim Singh Chhatri is a master mason, her mother is a homemaker, and has two brothers, the eldest, Suraj Chhatri, works in a steel factory, he is married and has hung up his boots now but he used to play hockey when Jyoti was young and inspired her to pick up the stick. The freedom and knowledge he gained while playing hockey drew Jyoti to the world of sports. She saw this as an opportunity to do something for herself and get to know the world.

Initially, her parents weren’t always supportive, she had to force her way to the pitch where the coaches saw her play and persuaded her family members to let her play hockey professionally. Jyoti started her professional hockey career in 2014 at Panposh Sports Hostel, Rourkela. In 2014 she played in the school National Championships, from 2015 she took part in Sub Junior and Junior National Championships, finally making the jump to Senior National Championships in 2017, along with a couple of Nehru Hockey Tournaments.

In 2019 she was selected for two Khelo India tours, the tour of Bangladesh and South Africa in addition to the 2019 National Games. Jyothi joined Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre in 2020, a crucial stepping stone in her career according to her. She was included in the Indian Junior Women’s Team core group after Junior Nationals in Jharkhand in 2021; she was selected for the very next tour, the Uniphar U23 5 Nations Tournament in Ireland in June 2022. She finally made the jump to the Indian Women’s Hockey Team in July 2023, making her senior debut in the 100th Anniversary Spanish Hockey Federation- International Tournament. She had to adjust quite a bit in terms of equipment, owing to her family’s financial situation, but her family tried to provide whatever she needed. Her toughest period in her career came in the form of a back injury in 2016, there was no clear diagnosis for the injury hence she underwent general treatment, forcing her to a bed rest of 15 to 20 days on two occasions. Taking to the pitch after the rest was extremely painful, the high-intensity training sessions left her unable to even change sides on the bed. Jyoti continued to fight, enduring the pain till warm-up and again after training, she tried her best to be mentally strong through this period but at times she thought she might not be able to make a career in hockey. Her parents were concerned that it might affect her future as well but her brother vouched for her at home. Due to this reaction, she started to hide her pain from her family; she learned that she had to handle the situation on her own. Finally, in 2020, as she joined the Odisha Naval Tata Hockey HPC she received specific treatment for her back and strengthened her glutes and hamstring for a month which cured her back pain. Her Idol is Sushila Chanu, she has watched her play as a kid but Sushila’s energy and hunger on the pitch and the way she plays have put her on a pedestal in Jyoti’s eyes. “The Junior World Cup is the most important tournament that is coming up. We are working on our structure and we will look to play in the same manner as we do in practice, we will play on our strengths, as a united team. During the Asia Cup as well, we started gaining momentum and improving game by game so we will look to play with the same confidence. Our mindset is that we are a strong team that will play with confidence and most importantly play our game,” Jyoti said ahead of the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Hina Bano (Midfielder)

Name: Hina BanoAge: 19Position: MidfielderHome State: Lucknow, UP Hina’s father passed away at an early age. Thereafter, she lived in government quarters with her grandfather, who is a barber, her mother, a homemaker, and a younger brother who is 16 years old. Avishek, a hockey coach in her school got her to play hockey in 2017, after a month of training she did well in trials for SAI Lucknow where Neelam Kapoor selected her after witnessing her immense talent. Hina didn’t receive much support from home initially; she even gave her trials in secret. After being selected the school’s principal had to persuade her family to let her train in SAI after which she took part in the 2017 Junior National and Sub Junior National Academy. Hina continued to excel in the sport and it was her stellar performance in the Junior National in Bhubaneswar in 2022 that earned her call-up to junior camp. She went on the Ireland tour and SA test series matches but was not selected in the squad that went to Japan for the Women’s Junior Asia Cup. Ever since she started playing in SAI her grandfather has been her strongest advocate, imploring other family members to let her play hockey. But earlier this year, it was found that her grandfather had blood frozen in his brain and the chances of being paralysed were high, he dodged that bullet but his health remains a matter of concern. In the domestic circuit, Hina played as a striker but since joining the Junior National camp she has been playing as a midfielder. The youngster regards Vandana Kartariya as her Idol and strives to emulate her on the pitch.Ahead of the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Hina said, “Our team has been working on the areas in the camp where we feel we have fallen short this year, and we are confident we will be able to achieve good results in the tournament. Despite the tough competitions, our eyes are fixed on a medal-winning finish. If we stick to our plans and are prepared to adapt as per situations, we will be in a strong position to achieve our targets.”

Sujata Kujur (Midfielder)

Name: Sujata KujurAge: 20Position: MidfielderHome State: Sundargarh, Odisha Sujata started playing hockey when she was 12 years old after seeing people play in her village and soon started liking it. She began her journey from SAI, Sundargarh, and then moved to the National Centre of Excellence (NCE), Kolkata. She earned her maiden call-up to the Junior National Camp in April this year and went on to make her debut at the Women’s Junior Asia Cup where the team clinched Gold. She was also part of the 2023 4 Nations Junior Women’s Invitational Tournament in Düsseldorf. The Junior World Cup in Chile will be Sujata’s third international assignment with the team. Talking about the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Sujata said, “To represent your country at one of the biggest stages is like a dream come true for any athlete. This is a big moment for me and my family, who have always been supportive. I am looking forward to the tournament, and I am sure it will be a valuable learning experience for me.”

Rutuja Dadaso Pisal (Midfielder)

Name: Rutuja Dadaso Pisal (Vice-Captain)Age: 20Position: MidfielderHome State: Satara, Maharashtra Rutuja, who hails from Satara village in Maharashtra, moved to a sports hostel in Pune in 2010 after appearing for the Battery of Tests (BoT), the State government’s mandatory selection process for admission to the National Sports Talent Search. She picked up hockey at the sports hostel and honed her skills under Olympian Ajit Lakra. She went on to represent Maharashtra in the domestic circuit and earned the call-up to the Junior National Camp in 2018. She played her maiden match for the Indian Junior Team during a Test Series in Chile in 2021, where the team remained unbeaten. She was picked up as one of the standbys in the previous edition of the Junior World Cup. Rutuja was part of the squad for the Uniphar U23 5 Nations Tournament 2022, Dublin, Ireland, and the inaugural FIH Hockey5s 2022 held in Laussane. The 20-year-old played an instrumental role in the team’s title win at the 2023 Women’s Junior Asia Cup. She was also part of the 2023 4 Nations Junior Women’s Invitational Tournament in Düsseldorf and is now named the Vice-Captain of the squad for the upcoming Junior World Cup in Chile. “I was picked up as one of the standbys in the previous edition, but this time I made it to the squad. It’s a proud moment for me and my family. It’s also an honour to be named Vice-Captain of the team, and the onus is on me to keep the team motivated throughout the tournament and give our best,” Rutuja said before the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Sakshi Rana (Forward)

Name: Sakshi RanaAge: 16Position: ForwardHome State: Haryana Sakshi Rana, who was inspired by Haryana’s profound love for hockey, is a testament to the talent cultivated at the Pritam Siwach Academy. Sakshi comes from a family with a deep hockey connection. Sakshi’s brother has also represented Haryana at the Sub Junior level. Her remarkable performance at the 13th Hockey India Junior Women National Championship 2023 in Odisha set the tone for the year as she received a well-deserved call-up to the Junior National Camp. She followed it up with a good showing for India at the 4 Nations Tournament in Dusseldorf. As a forward, Sakshi showcases skill, determination, and a passion for the game.

Pritam Rani Siwach, an icon in women’s hockey, serves as Sakshi’s inspiration. Striving to emulate her on the pitch, Sakshi envisions a future where she leaves her mark on the sport. Expressing her excitement for the opportunity to play for India, Sakshi sees it as a special achievement and harbours hopes of returning home with the coveted trophy. Her journey is not just personal but a representation of the promising talent emerging from the heart of Haryana. “I have been looking forward to the opportunity to play for India.

It is a special achievement for me and I hope we will come back home with the trophy,” she said.

Mumtaz Khan (Forward)

Name: Mumtaz KhanAge: 20Position: ForwardHome State: Lucknow, UP Mumtaz has five sisters and one brother and her father runs a vegetable trolley in order to sustain the family. She started playing hockey in 2015. While there were a lot of events in school her parents advised her to focus on her studies. Nevertheless, she joined in with friends secretly and didn’t mind getting reprimanded for it. 2 months after picking up the hockey stick, she joined KD Singh Babu Hostel with the help of Coach Neelam Siddique. From the sports hostel, she took part in the Sub Junior National Championships in Chhattisgarh in 2016 where she captained the team and earned call-up to the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team. Tragedy struck in Hockey5s Ireland 2019 where Mumtaz suffered a major knee injury in the Final. She underwent surgery, followed by 9 months of recovery. Mumtaz had to brave through the physical pain and be mentally strong during this period, not to let outside comments bother her. But Mumtaz was determined to step on the field again and she is grateful for the support from her family and Hockey India during this time. Since then she has played in the Junior World Cup where the team finished 4th, recovered from another knee injury, and lifted the Junior Women’s Asia Cup. Mumtaz regards Vandana Katariya, Sushila, and Navneet as her idols in hockey. She looks up to them as they embody grit, hard work and have great game sense. “We are aware of the competition that we will face and we have been working on the areas where we feel we still need to improve upon. It is always important to have good dynamics in the team before every tournament and the atmosphere in our dressing room is quite positive. We are eagerly awaiting the start of the tournament,” Mumtaz commented on the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Annu (Forward)

Name: AnnuAge: 20Position: ForwardHome State: Rojkhera, Jind, Haryana

Annu hails from Rojkhera, a village near Jind, Haryana. Former Indian Women’s Hockey Team Captain, Rani, is Annu’s idol. Annu credits her father and Rani as the driving forces behind her hockey career. Her father, Mr. Rajpal had been adamant about making her play a sport professionally since the beginning. Initially, she used to play Kho Kho but in 2011 she joined a sports academy in Sirsa and had to choose between Judo and Hockey. To pique Annu’s interest in the sport, her father told her stories about Rani, who is also from Haryana. ‘I was very moved by the example she set after hearing about her from my father’, and it has motivated me during difficult times ever since Annu moved to SAI Hisar in 2013 after a two-year stint in Sirsa to train under Azad Singh. She has since competed in several National Championships as well as three editions of the Khelo India Youth Games. Her outstanding performance in the 9th Hockey India Junior Women National Championship 2019 earned her a spot in the juniors’ core group. Annu was a member of the Women’s Junior Asia Cup winning team in Kakamigahara, Japan. She finished this campaign as the leading scorer, with 9 goals in 5 games. “The whole team has put in the hard work before this World Cup. There are always areas where we can improve; I have been working on regaining the ball after we lose possession in forward positions. I was a standby in the previous edition but now I will have the opportunity to give my all on the pitch and hopefully make the country proud,” Annu said after making the World Cup Squad.

Deepika Soreng (Striker)

Name: Deepika SorengAge: 19Position: StrikerHome State: Simdega, Jharkhand From the streets in front of her house to the spotlight of the hockey field, Deepika’s journey embodies determination and love for the sport. Her childhood days were intertwined with hockey, owing to the legacy of her late father, who was a hockey player and trained young kids at a school in his village in Jharkhand. Even though Deepika’s father passed away when she was a child, her love for the game remained immortal. Even as a child, Deepika was drawn to the striker’s role, a position she held dear throughout her hockey journey. Her path into the professional realm of hockey began when she entered school, marking the inception of her sporting ambitions. In 2014, Deepika’s prowess caught the eye of selectors, leading to her selection at Simdega Hockey Center. Her journey saw subsequent shifts, eventually landing her a spot at the Eklavya Hostel in Ranchi, a pivotal point that helped refine her skills. However, the abrupt halt caused by the lockdown saw Deepika moving to Rourkela, where her mom used to reside and work as a contractor in a steel plant. Apart from her mother, Deepika’s family consists of two elder brothers and a younger brother, who is also a budding hockey player and trains at Simdega Hockey Center. Deepika continued her hockey practice in Rourkela during the lockdown and her entry into the national arena came in 2017, with impressive performances at the Sub Junior National in Tamil Nadu, where she emerged as the top goal scorer. The subsequent year, the young striker continued her stellar play, shining in the Junior National held in Bhopal. Throughout her journey, Deepika stood tall against obstacles, motivated by the hard work and sacrifices made by her mother back in Rourkela. Her determination, resilience, and admiration for Asunta Lakra, a figure she idolizes, continue to fuel her pursuit of excellence in hockey. Speaking on playing in the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Deepika said, “Competing in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 is not just a dream—it’s a chance to etch our passion and perseverance onto the global canvas. I’m thrilled to stand with my team, ready to embrace every challenge and relish every moment on the field. This tournament holds our aspirations, our unity, and our unwavering determination.

Dipi Monika Toppo (Forward)

Name: Dipi Monika ToppoAge: 20Position: ForwardHome State: Sadghapur, Odisha Dipi comes from a family of 6. Her father passed away due to blood cancer when she was just 17 years old. Her mother is a homemaker and she has 3 sisters, 2 of whom are older than Dipi, and a younger brother. Her elder sisters tend to the farm now, due to lack of support from the extended family. Dipi saw her sisters play hockey and followed suit, playing with them in the local mud ground. She joined Panposh Sports Hostel in 2015 where she stayed for 5 years playing in multiple Sub Junior National Championships, Junior National Championships and Khelo India Youth Games.She joined Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre in 2021 and took part in Senior National Championships, Academy National Championships and the National Games in Gujarat. Dipi was picked for the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team after her impressive performances in the Academy National Championships 2021 in Bhubaneswar. After joining the international setup Dipi went on the tour of Ireland and the Hockey5s Asia Cup in Salalah. She regards Vandana Katariya as her idol. Emulating her idol’s determination, Dipi worked on her game after she didn’t make the cut for the Junior Asia Cup Squad. “I put in a lot of time and effort to improve my wing play and positioning. Initially, I had difficulty understanding the structure but the coaches and Captain Preeti helped me get up to speed. I want to showcase my talent and help the team in our endeavour to win the World Cup,” Dipi said after making the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 squad.

Sunelita Toppo (Forward)

Name: Sunelita ToppoAge: 16Position: ForwardHome State: Sundergarh, Odisha Sunelita developed an interest in the sport in her younger days. While her maternal aunt had played for India before, Sunelita herself did not know much about hockey at the time. She saw women playing hockey for the first time at a fest in her village and she was impressed with the sport. She told her father that she wanted to play hockey and her father introduced her to a local coach. Her father is a farmer, while her mother is a homemaker, but despite limited means, they supported her in getting into the sport. She has two younger brothers who are studying. Sunelita started her hockey career at the SAI Training Centre (STC) in Sundargarh, which provides residential training and coaching in numerous sports including hockey. When she started hockey, she did not have proper sticks. She would play using bamboo sticks. But later on, she was helped by her maternal aunt with the equipment after she found out that Sunelita was also pursuing hockey. Later on, she was helped with the equipment by her academy. In 2018, Sunelita suffered a shoulder injury. But she was helped by her support staff in dealing with the injury and she feels she learned to adapt her game according to minor injuries. She represented Odisha in the National Games in Gujarat in 2022, after which she was picked for the National Camp. She made her debut for the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team at the Junior Women’s Asia Cup 2023. She enjoyed representing India and also credits Chief Coach Janneke for her improved performance. In 2023, because of her tremendous performance, she also received a call-up for the Senior Women’s National Coaching Camp despite being only 16 years old. Sunelita has also played at the centre-half position, but she enjoys playing as a forward more. Her goal is to win the Gold medal for India at the Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup. “I am honoured to be named in the squad for the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. I cannot wait to represent the nation on the big stage. We have a solid squad and our team comprises players who have performed really well over the past year. We have gained good experience this year competing across several tournaments and we are confident that this will help us in ensuring we put our best foot forward in the tournament,” Sunelita commented on the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023.

Thounaojam Nirupama Devi (Defender)

Name: Thounaojam Nirupama DeviAge: 19Position: DefenderHome State: Manipur Thounaojam Nirupama Devi, hailing from Manipur, embodies a profound passion for hockey that mirrors the dedication of her family. With her father working as a farmer and her mother dedicated to homemaking, Nirupama found inspiration through her family’s steadfast encouragement and her cousin brother, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, who is a hockey player himself. Beginning her hockey journey as a striker in 2015 by emulating her brother’s footsteps, Nirupama’s venture into the sport faced initial skepticism from her mother. However, fueled by her love for the game and her brother’s guidance, she persisted. Her official entry into the M.P. Women Hockey Academy in 2018 marked a turning point as she went on to play in the Junior Nationals in 2021, following which she was named for the Junior National camp in SAI, Bengaluru in 2022. Despite initial reluctance, Nirupama’s transformation into a defender at the M.P. Women Hockey Academy became a pivotal shift that she now cherishes. Drawing inspiration from her brother, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, an Olympian and an Arjuna awardee, Nirupama aspires to emulate his achievements despite playing in a different position. His guidance and emphasis on hard work continue to fuel Nirupama’s aspirations. Nirupama’s unwavering determination, backed by familial support and the spirit to match her brother’s accomplishments, stands as a testament to her commitment on the field. Expressing her thoughts on participating in the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, Thounaojam Nirupama Devi stated, “Stepping onto the global stage at the Junior World Cup is an honour and a culmination of endless dedication. It’s a chance to embody the spirit of perseverance, to play not just for myself but for the dreams and aspirations of my family and my inspiring brother.”

Jyothi Edula (Midfielder)

Name: Jyothi EdulaAge: 21Position: MidfielderHome State: Hyderabad, Telangana Jyothi started playing when she was in the 6th standard. She was always interested in sports, but she began playing hockey since it was a popular sport in her school, Kendriya Vidyalaya. She went to Bhopal after completing her 10th for SAI selections and got selected. Although her family was not supportive of her decision to go to Bhopal and play hockey, as they wanted her to focus on her studies, her coach supported her and assured her parents that she would be safe. She comes from a financially unstable background, and it was difficult for the family to manage expenses when her parents had to undergo open-heart surgery — her father when she was in 9th grade and her mother 5 months ago. During these turbulent times, her father started working as a milk supplier along with her younger brother, while Jyothi volunteered to give up her tuition and still managed to score 98% in her 10th standard exams. Despite all this, Jyothi refused to give up hope for a career in hockey. In her hockey journey so far, she was awarded the best Sub-Junior player in her very first tournament for Telangana Hockey. She has also been presented with the outstanding and best athlete award by Anurag Thakur after her performance in the first academy junior nationals in Delhi in 2021, where SAI secured the gold medal. She used to play as a forward but has started playing as a midfielder recently. “The team is in great shape heading into the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. During our training sessions, we have identified areas of improvement and we are working on it. We know we have some strong quality teams in our Pool, but the players see this as an opportunity to showcase how much they have grown as a team and individuals over the past few months,” she said before heading to Chile.

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