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The film starts with a hockey match. Indian captain Kabir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) misses a penalty stroke in the final minutes of the match which causes the team to lose the game, the final of a tournament against arch rivals Pakistan. The Indian media make Kabir Khan the fall guy for the defeat. Kabir is humiliated and has to leave his ancestral home, unable to face the shame of being labelled a gaddaar (traitor).
Seven years later, Kabir returns with a proposal to coach the Indian women's hockey team for the Hockey World Cup. The Indian Hockey Federation members are skeptical since women's hockey in India has never achieved anything substantial. Kabir takes on the challenge and goes to the National Hockey Camp where he is introduced to the 16 young girls who play for their respective states. Kabir starts coaching them with a dream that the team will win the Hockey World Cup for India and he will finally be free of the demons of the past haunting him.
The team is riven by conflicts of region, class and ethnicity. Kabir inculcates in them a sense of team spirit and asks them to put the country first. The girls take time but manage to come together through a series of incidents. Some senior members of the team resent him but he finally gets through to them. The team rally and convince the Federation to send them for the World Cup to be held in Australia who also happen to be the defending champions.
In their first match, they are hammered by the Australians but slowly turn their game around and start winning matches. They keep improving during the course of the tournament and miraculously manage to reach the finals where they must face the defending champions once more. In the end it all comes down to a tense penalty shoot out, which the Indians win.
The players and Kabir are ecstatic at their victory and are welcomed back as heroes. More importantly, Kabir returns to his home after seven years where the residents greet him with love and affection.