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Dubai: Not even bypass surgery could stop this hockey player – News


Shanavas Valappil, a resident of Dubai, hopes to play many more tournaments. — Photo supplied

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 6:46 p.m.

Advanced years and serious heart disease can weaken the spirit of many people, but if you are Shanavas Valappil, you accept all that with a big smile and greater resolve.

It was in 2018 that Valappil had a rude awakening. Valappil, a club hockey player from the United Arab Emirates who had been juggling professional and sporting life for more than two decades, was stumped when doctors asked him to undergo bypass surgery for a serious heart condition. .

Valappil had just started participating in elite international hockey competitions for veterans to become a globe-trotting senior athlete.

A cowardly individual would have shown the white flag, but Valappil was undeterred. He underwent a critical surgery in Kochi, Kerala, and 14 months later, he returned to the hockey field for competitive matches.

The 51-year-old recently competed in the prestigious Masters Indoor World Cup in England, his 10th international senior hockey tournament since undergoing surgery.

“When I was going to have surgery, I knew that this was not the end of the world for me as an athlete. Not even for a second did those thoughts cross my mind,” Valappil told the Khaleej Times.

Valappil, head of Lacnor’s sales department, was named the best goaltender at the Pan American Hockey Masters in Mexico last year when his decisive penalty save in the final against the Argentine Masters helped International HC Mexico take the title.

This decorated veteran’s inspiring story proves that anything is possible in life if you have the willpower to overcome difficult challenges.

“What I made sure before undergoing bypass surgery in the hospital is that I raised myself emotionally to be a strong person. The support of my family and friends also helped me a lot, but in the end it was all about me and how I was going to deal with the challenges after surgery. It was all about willpower,” Valappil said.

“I have seen many people who have undergone bypass surgery, people feel like they are going to have a heart attack when they try to walk, they feel very weak physically and mentally.

“But there is nothing to worry about if you stay mentally strong. You just have to keep a positive attitude.”

Valappil, who also played hockey for his college team in Thalassery, Kerala, remains very disciplined when it comes to his diet.

“We need to compromise on a lot of things to be a good athlete,” he said.

“So you must not be an alcoholic, you must not be a smoker, you must follow your diet properly. For me there is no junk food and I rarely eat red meat. Basically, you should be able to avoid a lot of things.

“You know Usain Bolt used to win Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters in just nine seconds, but people don’t know how much he had committed in his life to run that fast for those nine seconds.”

Valappil is now confident of playing in many more international events.

“Hockey is a passion, you can’t play this sport for fun. People who play hockey with passion will never give up,” said the veteran goalkeeper who represented the World X1 at the recent Masters Indoor World Cup in England.

“It was a different experience playing that tournament. Without words, sharing the locker room with Olympic and World Cup athletes and playing with them was a different experience.”

Valappil’s inspiring journey has also touched the doctor who operated on him in 2018.

“I have been in contact with him for a long time. When he found out about my last tournament, he called me and said: “I’m very happy for you, you are a very brave person.”

But the Indian expat, who is now preparing for next month’s European Masters Hockey League in Germany, admits he couldn’t have done it alone.

“My friends have supported me a lot, the players, the partners, they took me to the field, for matches, for training, for set pieces after my return from surgery,” he recalled.

“And of course, I have no words to describe the support I have received from my wife (Benazeer Shanavas).

“She is the one who has taken care of my diet, she has always encouraged me to play hockey because she knows very well what hockey means to me.”


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