Adrian D’Souza’s life would make for a perfect Bollywood movie script.
D’Souza enjoyed a mercurial rise from a middle-class suburban Mumbai (Malad) kid, who trained at the concrete courts of St Anne’s High School (Orlem) to going on to become one of India’s top-notch hockey goalkeepers known to have innovatively thwarted some of the world’s best drag-flickers including the lethal Pakistani Sohail Abbas. Inconsistent form thereafter saw D’Souza being in and out of the national team before he launched a comeback onto the big stage as captain of Mumbai Marines, one of the franchises of the inaugural franchise-based multi-million dollar World Series Hockey (Feb 29-April 2). The ‘script’ gets even better though as D’Souza’s team finishes last in the league, and as if that was not dramatic enough, he then tests positive for a banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in tests conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and is banned from the game for a year. D’Souza accepted his error and appealed against the severity of the ban and got it reduced to three months, that ended on Sunday, September 30.
“I’m relieved at finally being able to return to competitive hockey again,” D’Souza told MiD DAY yesterday on his arrival from Bangalore, where his club Air India lost 1-2 to Punjab in the National Championship final.
His dark days are over, but D’Souza admitted those nerve-wracking moments will be with him for life. “I got the news of the dope tests pretty late and that too from someone from the media. At first, I was shocked and in disbelief. I thought someone was playing a prank. Then, during the series of sleepless nights that followed, I wondered how this may have happened,” said D’Souza, who credited his family, friends and employers Air India for their relentless support in his time of need. On top of his list of well-wishers is his wife Giselle. D’Souza explained why: “The news of the tests broke in April and we had planned to get married in court in May (a church marriage is scheduled for next year). I didn’t know what to do. I was worried how my family, in-laws and most importantly, Giselle would react. But she simply held my hand and reassured me that this was a passing phase. She was right,” said D’Souza, who claimed to have “unintentionally and ignorantly” consumed the recreational drug at a party.
“Close friends like Dhanraj Pillay (current AI coach) have been very helpful. Despite knowing that I was ineligible to play due to the ban, AI ensured I travel to all tournaments. Had it not been for these guys, I don’t know what I would have done,” said D'Souza, who is now looking forward to Season II of WSH (Dec 15, 2012 to Jan 20, 2013). “Last edition’s bottom-place finish was a result of some errors in the draft system, wherein we picked certain foreign players, who eventually never made the trip. I’m hoping for a better draft and, with it, consequently a better result this time,” said the 2004 Athens Olympian.
D’Souza’s India dreams are alive too. “Like every Indian hockey fan, I was gutted to see our team finish with the wooden spoon at the London Games. It hurt more as a player, knowing that I can contribute to the team’s betterment. Unfortunately, warring federations are resulting in a situation where a host of deserving players are missing out on the India jersey. I hope I don’t,” he signed off.
If ’keeper Adrian Albert D’Souza does make an India comeback with a fine showing at WSH-II, it would be the perfect ending to a guaranteed super hit Bollywood flick.