These are the men who made India wake up early on a Thursday morning and get ready to watch a hockey match. Yes, you read it right, a hockey match!
Remember these names. This is their moment of fame, and they deserve all the accolades.
Manpreet Singh, P.R. Sreejesh, Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh, Varun Kumar, Simranjeet Singh, and Krishan Pathak.
This would seem very surprising as hockey’s fan following in India is nothing great to talk about. The last time when India won an Olympic medal in Hockey in 1980, around 80% of the current population was not even born.
As a result, this population has grown up just hearing stories about the golden era of Indian Hockey. But when there was an opportunity for a medal this time around, no one wanted to miss that moment.
When the men’s hockey team made that dream possible by winning the bronze medal defeating Germany 5-4, an entire nation rejoiced. Many of the Indian fans who may not even know the exact rules of hockey, were jumping and dancing.
They felt as though the victory was their own. And why not? That’s what sports does to people. It brings out a different kind of emotion.
“Itni consistency ke saath ye ladke khel gaye.”
To decipher this euphoria, we caught up with former player Aslam Sher Khan, a man who knows a thing or two about both hockey and emotions. Khan, who played a crucial role in India’s World Cup victory in 1975 was delighted with the team’s performance in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
“Itni consistency ke saath ye ladke khel gaye (The boys played with so much consistency). They deserved to win”, he said.
Even before the team had left for Tokyo, Khan had been quite optimistic about team’s chances. The team’s form had given him the confidence that they can beat any team in the world.
Additionally, he also felt that the current batch of Indian players were mentally very strong. This was quite visible in the bronze medal match as the Indian players were never subdued throughout the entire duration.
Although there were lots of ups and downs, the players rose to the occasion and demonstrated the will to get the medal. Not surprisingly, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh got a special mention from him.
“Hats off to all of them. Badhai ho, Khushi manaye. (Congratulations and celebrate the moment). But don’t lose the focus. Players who have age on their side should start thinking about the future tournaments and next Olympics. They have it in them to succeed”, was his message to the players.
“Honesty ke bagair revival nahin hoga” - Aslam Khan on Indian Hockey moving forward
This victory has given hope to many fans about the revival of Indian Hockey. But Khan has a word of caution on this. He said that the European teams get the results on the basis of honesty in their system whereas the Indians get it on the basis of their patriotism.
“Honesty ke bagair revival nahin hoga. Har level par honesty chahiye. Vision chahiye aage le jaane ke liye (Revival will not be possible without honesty. Honesty is needed at every level. There needs to be a vision to take the game ahead)”, he further pointed out.
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Indian fans will just hope that this medal serves as a tipping point from which Indian Hockey takes a giant leap and moves ahead.