Growing up in Manipur, a state deeply passionate about football, it is not surprising for Bichu Devi Kharibam to aspire to become a footballer. But destiny had something else in mind for her. Bichu recalled that being from Manipur, it was natural for her to choose football.
"I loved playing the sport. But it was my father who suggested that I should try my hands at hockey as it was not making it into the football team. He told me that if I don't like hockey, it will be okay and I can always come back for football." Bichu recalled.
"Once I started playing, I started loving the game. I used to play as a striker but noticing my agility on the field and my height, one of my coaches advised me to give goalkeeping a try. But I never wanted to become one. It was tough for me at the start, however, as time went on, I started adapting to it. It is true that whatever happens, happens for the best. If it was not for all of that, I wouldn't be here," Bichu Devi stated.
Fast forward to 2023, almost a decade after picking up the hockey stick, the young player from Manipur is headed to Hangzhou for the 19th Asian Games, where India will compete for the gold. Bichu Devi's career has been on the rise since she made her breakthrough with an eye-catching performance at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Argentina, where India won a historic silver medal. The following year, she was named 'Goalkeeper of the Tournament' at the 4 Nations Junior Women's Invitational Tournament in Dublin. She then got a chance to represent the senior women's national team in the FIH Pro League 2021/22. Bichu was also part of the team that won the inaugural FIH Women's Nations Cup in Spain in 2022.
"It was very special to have my family in Bengaluru for the Sunehra Safar ceremony organised by Hockey India. The smile on my family's faces when they were called up on the stage to present my India jersey meant the world to me. Seeing them so happy and proud motivated me even more to perform to the best of my abilities. I had not gone home in a long time and when I hugged my mother, I remember, she started crying and hugged me tightly." Having his family in Bengaluru for the farewell ceremony organized by Hockey India is one of the best moments of Bichu's life.