Interview with Indian Hockey Player - Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma

Khuman *

 Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma
Photo Courtsey:- Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma

Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma is an Indian professional field hockey player. He plays as a midfielder and represented India in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. And, he finally won a Gold Medal. He is from a state called Manipur which is in the corner of the north-eastern region of India. Manipur has been the “Power House of Sports” since its merger to country.

E-pao: - First of all, we would like to congratulate you and your whole team.
Nilakanta: - Thank you so much. And it’s my pleasure to meet you.

E-pao: - Please share how you started your career.
Nilakanta: - This question makes me recall my past days. Really feel emotional in sharing how I started my career. In an early age, I used to follow and play with brothers and seniors in my locality. I started playing hockey in the local playground along with them. Just very close to my home, there is a local club called YCCIC – Youth Club Cum Information Centre. I started playing for this club since 2003.

Then, I played for Posterior Hockey Academy Manipur. I joined Bhopal Academy in the year 2010. Then, I shifted to Bhopal to shape my career in the year 2013. I got the opportunity to participate in National Level Tournament once I shifted outside Manipur. I would like to say that once I move out of state I am able to see the world of sports broadly like competitive level, power of training, etc.

E-pao: -The moment you won the Gold Medal in the Asian Games 2022. How do you feel?
Nilakanta: - For every player, their dream is to compete at the high level. I always have dream of playing and competing in the big platform. Because of my hard-work and dedication, I am able to achieve this medal. At the same time it gives more value to the country’s hockey team. I feel very proud in achieving a Gold Medal in the Asian Games 2022.

E-pao: -Well, Hockey is a team sport. How would you like to express playing in a team?
Nilakanta: - Very true. Hockey is a team sport. All the players in a team have a specific role while playing a match. We need proper communication and co-ordination among the players in a team. We need to understand each other very well in terms of our playing skills and techniques.

If we have proper communication, co-ordination and support then we can play the match without losing concentration and endurance. When I was playing in the Junior Category I had a fear in dealing people, how to manage myself among the team members in a team, and sometimes unable to understand the Coach. But, after participated in the Olympic Games Tokyo in Japan, most of my challenges and fears were gone. Once we have proper communication and co-ordination then it is very easy to build up the team atmosphere.

E-pao: -Nilakanta, we would also like to know about your daily routine.
Nilakanta: - Very interesting. The daily Routine is not only for sports players. We all need a daily routine to perform well and achieve targets in our lives. Well, for my playing, I have a Morning and Evening Routine Daily. Practice in the morning and evening, say practice three times a week.

One very interesting thing is we are not trained or practiced only playing hockey. We also have a Gym and Psychology Class. What I like most in the Psychology Class is that it helps an individual build up confidence and boosts their personality. This kind of class/training helps us to be more energetic, enthusiastic, and able to face people. Overall, it is the means to develop our personality.

 Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma
Photo Courtsey:- Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma

E-pao: -Nilakanta, What’s the best advice you’ve gained from your coaches?
Nilakanta: - Worth answering this question. I would like to thank some of my ojas (teachers/coaches) who have helped me a lot since the starting of my career, namely Oja Chandikumar, Oja Romesh, and (Late) Oja Herojit. Under their guidance, I started playing hockey. I still remember that once upon a time, Oja Brojen from Y.A.S (Youth Affair and Sports) told me that Nilakanta played midfield.

So, today I am a midfielder. Their guidance and support are priceless. I don’t have a special word to describe the way they gave me advice. What I am today is only because of them. When I started playing Senior Level, Sir Harendra gave me a lot of valuable advice to be a professional hockey player in terms of skills and other technical advice.

Here I would like to quote that it is very important to understand our coaches from every angle because they play an important role in shaping the career of a player. Once they reject us, then our career is over. So understand the coaches and give your best.

E-pao: -Nilakanta, Whom do you credit for your success in the career so far?
Nilakanta: - First of all I would like to thank my family because since my early days every member of my family has extended their support in all ways. I am married and I would like to thank my wife for her sacrifice, understanding, helping and always supporting me. I would also like to say thank you to all my coaches who have guided me throughout my career and thanks to my friends and all the hockey lovers.

E-pao: -Please share what your future plans are.
Nilakanta: - This one I took and think very carefully. I will dedicate my life in shaping players to become professional athletes. During my journey in the career I have faced some challenges among the sub-junior, junior, and senior players. I would like to fill this kind of gap so that each of us can share everything and support one another. Therefore, I want to be an educator/facilitator/coach in the near future.

E-pao: -Nilakanta, What do you want to say to budding players?
Nilakanta: - Give your time. Do everything in the career with full dedication. Don’t demotivate yourself when you are down. Say, for example, when you are not selected for playing in state/national/international level tournaments, from that, you can only learn more and many more will come from the failure. Self-motivation is really great. Understanding the coaches is also important. Be strong physically and mentally.

E-pao: - Please highlight your participations and achievements.
Nilakanta: - My pleasure to highlight my participations and achievements here.

1. 4 Nations Invitational Tournament (Men) at Hamilton, New Zealand from 14th January to 28th January 2018. Indian Team won Silver Medal.
2. 27th Sultan of Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia from 03rd March to 10th March 2018.
3. India vs Bangladesh Matches (Men) at Bengaluru, India from 29th June to 06th July 2018.
4. Test Match Series India vs South Korea at SAI Centre, Bengaluru 07th July to 19th July 2018. Indian Team won the Series.
5. Hero Asian Champions Trophy 2018 (Men) at Muscat, Oman from 18th October to 28th October 2018. Indian Team won Gold Medal.
6. Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup at Bhubaneswar, India from 28th November to 16th December 2018.
7. 28th Sultan of Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia from 23rd March to 30th March 2019. Indian Team won Silver Medal.
8. Australia Tour (Sr Men) at Perth, Australia from 08th May to 17th May 2019.
9. FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019 at Bhubaneswar, India from 30th May to 16th June 2019. Indian Team won the Gold Medal.
10. Tokyo 2020 Olympics Test Event for Hockey (Sr Men) at Tokyo, Japan from 17th August to 21st August 2019. Indian Team won the Gold Medal.

11. Belgium Tour (Sr Men) at Antwerp, Belgium from 26th September to 03rd October 2019.
12. FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha (Men) at Bhubaneswar, India from 01st November to 02nd November 2019. (Winners).
13. FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 – 2021 (Men) India vs Netherlands at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar on 18th January and 19th January 2020.
14. FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 – 2021 (Men) India vs Belgium at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar on 08th February 2020.
15. FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 – 2021 (Men) India vs Australia at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar on 22nd February 2020.
16. Europe Tour 2021 (Senior Men) at Krefeld, Germany & Antwerp, Belgium from 21st February to 09th March 2021.
17. Argentina Tour (Sr Men) at Argentina from 31st March to 16th April 2021.
18. FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 – 2021 (Men) Argentina vs India at Cenard, Buenos Aires on 10th April and 11th April 2021.
19. XXXII Olympic Games Tokyo (Men) in Japan from 23rd July to 08th August 2021. Indian Team won Bronze Medal.
20. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs France at North-West University, Potchefstroom on 08th February and 12th February 2022.

21. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs South Africa at North-West University, Potchefstroom on 09th February and 13th February 2022.
22. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs Spain at Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Bhubaneswar on 27th February 2022.
23. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs Argentina at Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Bhubaneswar 19th March 2022.
24. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs England at Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Bhubaneswar on 03rd March 2022.
25. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs Germany at Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Bhubaneswar on 14th April and 15th April 2022.
26. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs Belgium at Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp on 11th June 2022.
27. FIH Hockey Pro League 2021 – 2022 (Men) India vs Netherlands at HC Rotterdam, Rotterdam on 18th June and 19th June 2022.
28. XXII Commonwealth Games (Men) at Birmingham, England from 29th July to 08th August 2022. Indian Team won Silver Medal.
29. FIH Hockey Pro League 2022 – 2023 (Men) India vs New Zealand at Bhubaneswar, India on 28th October 2022.
30. FIH Hockey Pro League 2022 – 2023 (Men) India vs Spain at Bhubaneswar, India on 30th October 2022.

31. India Tour of Australia, Test Matches at Adelaide, Australia from 20th November to 05th December 2022.
32. FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Roukela, Odisha, India from 13th January to 29th January 2023.
33. Hero Asian Champions Trophy at Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India from 03rd August to 12th August 2023. Indian Team won Gold Medal.
34. Men’s Field Hockey Asian Games 2022, Hangzhou, China from 23rd September to 08th October 2023. Indian Team won Gold Medal.

E-pao: -What will be your words to bring out more players from the state?
Nilakanta: - This is a very nice question. Please remember most of the players in our state have challenges. There may be financial problems, challenges to the quality of training, and other infrastructure. Instead of highlighting the challenges, I would like to say some words so that the authorities or other individuals can consider bringing out more players from the state.

I would like to suggest organizing more tournaments/competitions because when a player plays matches as much as he/she can at that time, only one can bring out the best of the best. At the same time, players also need to participate in such tournaments/competitions to improve their performance. During my early days, tournaments were organized frequently. I took part and I got the advantage.

This is also one of the ways to motivate players to perform well. These days, we don't see organizing frequent tournaments. Please don’t motivate or celebrate or felicitate only when they come back with the medal. It would be happier for a player if they extended support and motivated them in the journey of shaping their career.

See a full photo gallery here

 Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma
Photo Courtsey:- Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma

* Khuman conducted this interview for sometime in October 2023
This article was webcasted on November 09 2023.

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