Running through the flanks for India, this curly-head striker from Coorg is one of the more quiet workhorses of Indian hockey. But once you tickle SK Uthappa’s brain throwing a few questions at him, the man comes forth with replies that only the most diligent students of the game can put together.
Off the turf, SK Uthappa is like any other human being – wanting to catch a movie, be with his family and play fetch with his four-legged pals. When Dragflickworld got into a freewheeling chat with SK Uthappa, he touched upon all this and much more.
You are one of the champion Kalinga Lancers. How does the HIL crown feel?
I am very proud to come out as a Champion. Playing against some of the best players from around the world is no easy task, so yes, it feels even more special to win the title. It took me 5 years for this. I am also extremely thankful to my teammates and the support staff.
The Lancers looked like a well-knit team – whether on field, aboard team bus or in the stands. What’s the secret?
Well, our formula was simple – to play as a team, one team. Field hockey is a team sport, which means you need to play like a team. It is very important to bond well when you play for such leagues. We also had a lot of fun off the pitch. Even the time spent on the bus was fun!
You were captained by an inspirational leader in Moritz Fuerste, who led with example & demanded the same from his players. What do you have to say about him?
Okay, with respect to all the captains that I’ve played under, Fuerste has got to be the best. The winning mentality that he brings to the team is terrific. He plays to win. With him around, the whole energy changes. His leadership qualities on the pitch is something very admirable.
Tell us about that viral Billy Bakker video where he lip-synced a Punjabi song. Tell us the story behind that.
Ha ha ha. Well, you must thank Pradeep Mor for this super viral video of Billy Bakker. He’s the guy who made sure everyone heard this song, over and over again. And, Billy – he’s an excellent performer, not just on the pitch but also off it He’s got the moves! And u saw the effect. (winks)
The Bhangra celebration of Lancers was a rage among the fans. Who introduced it & how?
This is something we’ve been doing since the last season. When you are surrounded by a crowd who love and enjoy good hockey, you have to make sure they are part of it too. So we decided to simply dance after scoring. The crowds too ended up loving the moment – each time we broke into a dance after scoring. I believe it’s always important for the players to connect with the fans.
Off the field, your fans have often seen you buddying up with your pets. There is also this picture of yours, smarting with your HIL medal around your pets neck after winning the league. Tell us about your bonding with them.
Yeah my pet is one champ! And I’m a dog lover too. I just love to be with them. It’s a bit sad that I don’t get to spend enough time with them but they are happy back home. They just give you so much love that I wish I could take them with me wherever I travel.
Back to hockey, a busy international calendar is coming up. Have you set any personal goals for the season?
Yes! this is an important year for us, we have some important tournaments coming up. I think the important goal for me is to stay fit. The team has been performing really well since the last couple of years and the most important thing is to maintain that consistency on top level. We all have worked very hard to reach here. I think I would like to relish all the positives I’ve learnt from the Hockey India League.