When 19-year-old Lalremsiami received news of her father’s demise due to heart attack on Friday morning, her first instinct was to fly back home immediately.
The Indian women’s hockey team, of which Lalremsiami is an integral part, is currently in Hiroshima to participate in the FIH Women’s Series Finals. It was scheduled to play a crucial semifinal on Saturday that would determine whether the side’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics dream stays alive.
The team’s head coach Sjoerd Marijne had given Lalremsiami the option of taking the next flight back to India, but she made her decision.
She told, ‘I want to make my father proud. I want to stay, play and make sure that the team qualifies’.
And so a day after losing her father, Lalthansanga Zote, who had encouraged her to pursue her hockey career, the Mizoram girl walked out on the turf on Saturday, even if it meant missing her doting dad’s funeral back home in Kolasib in Mizoram.
The young forward, fondly nicknamed ‘Siami’ by her teammates, played a part in India beating Chile 4-2, a victory that not only sent the team into the final but also booked a spot for India in the FIH Olympic qualifiers.
“Every player went and hugged Siami after the match. It is not easy to deal with a big loss at such a young age. And even though she didn’t score, she gave everything for the team. Indians should be proud of Siami,” Marijne said.
The Dutchman gave a glimpse into the mindset of the grief-stricken girl during a conversation he had with her just before the game on Saturday.
“I told her that if it gets too emotional at any time during the match, just tell me and if you want step out, you step out. But she wanted to play on,” Marijne said.
Not having experienced something like this before as a team, the tragic news galvanised all the other players to fight harder on the field and stay closer together off it.
“We all were there for Siami, speaking to her constantly, crying together as a team.
“I told the girls that the only thing you can do for her is to support her, work harder and win the match. That’s exactly what we did,” Marijne said.
Captain Rani told FIH after the match: “This match is dedicated to her father, so that he can be in peace in heaven. We are so proud of her she was with the team and didn’t fly back home.”
Marijne believes this will only motivate the team to go on and win the tournament on Sunday. “It has given us something extra to fight. The girls are more connected, motivated and are staying together as a family in these tough times. When they see Siami now, every player wants to work that extra bit harder to win the title,” he said.
Kiren Rijiju – Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, tweeted; I salute Lalremsiami and congratulations to the entire team India for defeating Chile 4-2 to enter Finals at FIH Women Series.
Indian women hockey player Lalremsiami's father expired when India was to play a crucial semifinal at Hiroshima that would determine if India's Olympics dream would be alive. She told coach, 'I want to make my father proud. I want to stay, play and make sure India qualifies🇮🇳🙏 pic.twitter.com/V9tlE84z4K
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) June 23, 2019