Affan Yousuf overcame mother's cancer to score for India

At 19, India’s junior hockey vice-captain and striker Affan Yousuf should not be thinking about anything other than hockey. But that’s easier said than done, considering he’s been through some of the toughest times emotionally in the recent past.

Affan’s mother Sajida was diagnosed with stomach cancer at the beginning of the year — a time when the young forward was just about establishing himself on the national scene.

“I was playing for Indian Oil at the time when doctors in Bhopal informed my elder brother Imran and my father (Mohammed Yousuf, a former India hockey forward) that my mother had cancer. They were shattered but chose not to inform me as they felt it would affect my game.

Yousuf Affan
Bhopal Badshahs’ striker Affan Yousuf during the World Series Hockey last year. Pic/AFP.

Shocking news
“When I returned home to Bhopal a few weeks later, they broke the news to me — it was like the earth under my feet had just split. I’m the youngest in the family (he has an elder sister Gazala who is married) so obviously I’m the most pampered — and my mother is the most special person in my life,” Affan told MiD DAY from Amritsar yesterday, where he is currently playing for Air India in the All-India Public sector hockey tournament at the Guru Nanak Dev University ground.

Sajida Yousuf
Affan’s mother Sajida Yousuf

Getting to know of his mother’s ailment was just the beginning of the mental trauma for the teenager.

“My mother’s pain was unbearable. She had to be taken to the Tata Memorial cancer hospital in Mumbai for periodic check-ups and was later operated upon a few months ago. All this while I could not be with her as I was away attending the national camp. My family instructed me not to let my game suffer, but mentally it has been very tough for me,” explained Affan, who was adjudged best player of the 3rd Hockey India Senior National Championships in Pune in August, and then followed it up recently by finishing among the top scorers in India’s Sultan of Johor Cup-winning campaign in Malaysia with four goals to his name.

Affan admitted that many a time he felt like just leaving everything else and being by his mother’s side during her painful moments, but she had strictly warned him against doing so. “She told me that whatever happens I have to keep playing and do well for India. It’s because of her that I’ve been able to achieve whatever little I have so far,” added Affan, who is set to take up employment with Central Railway, a Mumbai-based team.

Move to CR
CR is not among the country’s top teams but Affan has planned the move keeping his mother’s condition in mind. “I have applied to CR and they should in all likelihood offer me a Senior Ticket Collector’s post. But I have requested for a Nagpur posting as that is the closest I could be to mother — it’s a five to six-hour journey from Nagpur to Bhopal. Besides, though the tumour has been removed, my mother needs to visit Mumbai every three months for a check-up, so I can be with her during that time too. Hopefully, she’ll get well soon,” he signed off.

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