Started playing India’s national game Hockey at the age of 11 and now she is all set to represent her country at Tokyo Olympics. It is like a dream come true for any passionate sportsperson. We are talking about Neha Goyal, the star hockey player who became the part of 16-member Indian women’s hockey team for the upcoming Olympic games.

Neha’s story appears to be a fairytale from the outside but the reality was a lot different. Born in a poor conservative family in Haryana, Neha saw her mother getting abused and beaten up by her drunk father every day. She along with her two sisters and mother worked at a cycle factory in Sonepat to make both ends meet. She used to get Rs 5 a day at the factory.

From a cycle factory worker to an Indian star hockey player, Neha Goyal’s journey is an inspiration to all women who have succumbed to bad times and societal pressure.

According to Indian Express, Neha’s mother Savitri Devi never wanted to live the kind of life she did. Savitri Devi got her daughter enrolled at a hockey academy run by Pritam Siwach, an Arjuna Awardee and a member of India’s 2002 CWG gold medal-winning women’s team.

Pritam discovered Neha at a sports ground. One day she gave her a skipping rope to see if she has got the stamina of a sportsperson. Impressed by what she saw, Pritam vowed to make Neha a hockey player. She attempted to convince her family to let Neha play hockey and promised two proper meals as an incentive, reported Indian Express.

Neha’s coach also disclosed that Neha continued to help her mother even after she started playing hockey but she could never build a connection with her father.

“She never shied away from extra work. But she used to feel a little scared when her father came to the hockey ground. She used to freeze. Ultimately, I had to tell him to stay away from my academy,” Siwach told Indian Express.

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Explaining the challenging conditions in which Neha played and trained herself, Siwach said that once while playing a state-level match, she noticed that Neha was not running up to her potential. On being asked the reason, Neha showed Siwach her shoes. It had a big hole. Her coach got her a new pair of shoes.

Neha made her international debut at 18. She’s been in-and-out of the team but under Sjoerd Marijne, the Dutch coach of the women’s team, Neha has grown into a sharp attacker with the ability to slip past the defence.

Neha now provides financial support to the academy and donates underprivileged players like her sports kit by her sports earnings. Recently, the player got her mother an apartment moved into a high-rise apartment complex in Sonepat along the Delhi-Chandigarh highway.

At last but not least, some rooms in Neha’s home are specially reserved for underprivileged players who train at Siwach’s academy and can’t afford a place to stay. One of such players is junior India women’s player Antim.

“Her journey inspires me a lot. She did not have anything when she began and now, didi is taking care of us all,” Antim told Indian Express.