Hated after London 2012, loved before Rio 2016: How the Indian hockey team has become the darling of the nation in four years
No fans love like India, no fans hate like India. We are special in our very own way. Our national teams are praised for things they do and screamed at for what they cannot do.
But if you're one of those fans who have been following Indian Hockey in the past decade, you know, in your heart of hearts, that India can defeat all the top nations in the world now.
And you may love that, and hate that, probably at the same time.
The Indian Men's Hockey team failed to qualify for the first time in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. Four years later, the team had a disastrous outing under captain Bharat Chettri in London where they finished an unprecedented 12th and last after losing all five matches.
While we were expected to end up at 6th or 8th, we came nowhere. The only time we finished last at the end of the competition surpassing in shame the eighth place in Atlanta 1996.
From a dubious distinction of finishing last to counted as a medal contender, things have changed for the better in Indian Hockey. From a time when India was expected to win over lowly France and Canada to dominating Australia and Germany, there has been a reality check somewhere.
From not finishing goals to scoring three goals against the current Olympic champion and leaking easy defensive goals to stopping World number 1 from scoring goals in regulation time, we had a terrific run in the last two years.
Ranked 10th in the world, nobody expected a miracle from India in 2012 but the way we went down came as a shocker to the entire nation.
India finishes last in Hockey - National Sport- fails to win any Hockey match at Olympics. Proved again they invented zero. @London2012— Aashish Sawhney (@aliter42) August 12, 2012
The Men in Blue were showered with a whole heap of criticism, repeatedly describing their loss as ‘humiliating".
India finishes last in Hockey #London2012. From complete domination to this..complete humiliation..— RG (@2_rg) August 11, 2012
With less than 50 days to go for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, India clinched a historic silver at the recently-concluded Champions Trophy in London. The final loss was heartbreaking as the team had in superb form right throughout the tournament and finishing as the second-best team in the group stage.
But what was heartening to see, was the manner in which fans across the country poured their wishes on social media which was abuzz with congratulatory messages.
While these same fans have expressed their anger by smashing television sets and through protests after 2012, now they are lauding the players for a commendable effort.However, when it turns into criticism just for the sake of it, stones are pelted at their house. Yes, maybe that is the price for representing the nation.
In Rio, this team is one of our brightest medal prospects. But the bigger question is - will Indian fans ever learn? Will we ever be a little more patient and more careful about passing judgements?