Yuvraj Walmiki, Indian hockey player, recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as a part of the India A-list series. Recognized for excellence in sports and arts, Yuvraj spoke in detail about his journey, admiration  for hockey, turning point of his career and much more.

Speaking about his journey, he said, “I guess it was never planned. It was decided in 1999. I was 10 years old. My friend Bhuwan D Souza’s dad used to work in the hockey stadium as a doctor. There was a newspaper in Mumbai called The Free Press Journal. He came up with a small passport size picture and said, ‘Yuvi, my picture has come in the newspaper’. Everyone in class went gaga over Bhuwan’s picture in the newspaper. I decided that day that I want to see my picture in the newspaper. So, I will be very honest, I started playing hockey only because I wanted to see my picture in the newspaper. Eventually, it became a passion. Today I will happily say that it is the source of my bread and butter.”

Explaining why he chose hockey over any other sport, he said, “Considering my family issues, it was very difficult to even afford a bat. I told Bhuwan that I won’t be able to afford a hockey stick or a ball. He said,  ‘Don’t worry, I was raised in the stadium. There are a lot of players who give me their sticks so I have a spare stick for you.’  I was encouraged to play and that slowly became a passion.”

Talking about his family’s opinion on his career choice and the turning point of career, he revealed, “Champions are the ones who sleep in hard floors and eat dal rice, not the one who come from A/C room. This is what my belief is. When I told my mom that I want to play hockey she said, okay you can go ahead with it but if you want to play you should make it big. At the age of 15, I was earning more than my father. I thought that if I can earn well at the age of 15, I think the future is bright. Obviously, the one coach who made me was Mr. Bhava sir. The other coaches started polishing me and I kept shining.”

When asked about his special medal and match, he responded, “The special moment for me was to wear the tricolor. For a population of 135 crore, we stand out in the top 18 and we stand out in the stadium. The first tournament was my debut South Asian games, when we won against Pakistan. The reason I say Pakistan is because when we won that game, I never in my wildest dream thought that my life would change. When we landed from China to Delhi I never imagined that the crowd would be in 1000s. CM Uddhav Thackeray, Aditya Thackerary came to the airport. The first call I get is from Balasaheb Thackeray sir. When I met him, he asked what I wanted. I said my house does not have electricity. By the time I went home, my house had electricity. So, that one goal changed my life. I always quote myself you know, that my journey has been from darkness to light.

Sharing his journey as an actor, he expressed, “I think a little differently. Many people like me for it and others find it weird. I feel a person should grab any opportunity that they find. Being a Mumbaikar it is easy to find a role because it is the Bollywood city.”

He further spoke of the need for more hockey players to come in the front and talk about their accomplishments. He said, “When we won the 1983 cricket world cup, from there they took over. Despite winning in hockey in 1975, we did not capitalize on the marketing side. Now, the era is different. We have revived the hockey. Now, it is time to concentrate on the domestic and grassroot level because youth are the future of the country. I think we should make sports compulsory in schools.”