Every game has its key players who have the best view of the entire field and so are most vocal in giving suggestions. In cricket it is the wicketkeeper; in football and hockey, it is the goalkeeper. But when Abdul Samad dons the goalkeeper’s kit under the bar, he concentrates only on the ball. Samad would perhaps be the quietest goalkeeper in hockey anywhere — and it is not by choice. For, Samad is both speech and hearing impaired. Participating in the senior men’s nationals for the MP Academy side, Samad is a rarity. “he is one of the hardest working players I have seen. At the same time, his disability has no bearing on his game,” says Ashok Kumar, coach of the academy. It is not easy communicating with Samad, but the youngster is not one to shy away.
Communicating to The Sunday Express through sign language and writing on a pad, he indicates his love for the game. Samad grew up in the Aishbagh area of Bhopal, a traditional hockey stronghold. That and the fact that his father also played the sport, made made his interest in the sport a completely natural progression. According to Samad he started playing the game when he was about 10 years old. Samad says he was born in 1989, which makes him 22 years-old. Already, he has played about three senior nationals and an equal number at the junior level. Starting with Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL), where his father is an employee, Samad shifted to the Sports Authority of India, where he stayed for five years before moving on to the MP Academy to further hone his skills.
He has been with the academy side for the last couple of seasons, and Ashok Kumar says Samad is one of the sharpest observers of the game in the side. “He gives his inputs and has a keen eye. His observations are always taken seriously by all players,” he says. Samad himself does not think too much of his disability. Asked why he decided to take up goalkeeping, he simply looks up and signs “God’s wish. “I can read the game well and am suited to goalkeeping. I am only thankful that God has given me intellect even if I don’t have the ability to express it verbally,” he says. Samad has only managed to complete his schooling, from Asha Niketan school for the hearing impaired. But the lack of education is also not something that he regrets as he feels he has been blessed enough by his talent in hockey. As for his teammates? “They treat me like everyone else. There is no sympathy or anything and I like that,” he says.
But it isn’t easy for him to continue with his chosen life. Samad is unemployed and is dependent on the academy for his kits and his family for other needs. “He doesn’t belong to a rich family but his passion and hard work more than make up for the lack of resources. His family is equally supportive,” says Ashok Kumar. Like everyone who plays the sport, Samad also dreams of an India cap some day and continues to work hard towards that goal. But till then, he is happy to let his performances talk for him.