It took 41 years for India to win a medal in hockey at the Olympics when the men’s team clinched the bronze in Tokyo on August 5, defeating Germany 5-4 in a thrilling play-off encounter.
And the captain of that team, Manpreet Singh, feels that the future of hockey in India is very bright.
Interacting with mediapersons, Manpreet, who along with the entire men’s and women’s hockey teams arrived here on Tuesday for a felicitation ceremony hosted by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, said, “In 2008, we did not even qualify for the Olympics. But things have changed over the years, and the results are also showing. Now India has improved its position in world rankings.”
Stating that everything requires a certain time, Singh said, “Yes, it is true that we took more time to reach here. But now we are getting the infrastructure and all kinds of support required for the world’s best athletes. The future is very bright for hockey in our country.”
He also said that the team will now focus on upcoming tournaments like the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cup.
“We will analyse our performance in Tokyo. Wherever required, we will improve and continue to give our best performance,” the India captain said.
Asked about his experience in Odisha, he said, “We got a lot of love and affection from Odisha during the last World cup that was played in Bhubaneswar. That gave a boost to all of us.”
He hoped that Naveen Patnaik, who himself was a hockey player during his schooldays, will continue to sponsor the team for the next five to 10 years.
Meanwhile, India goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh suggested that all sports, including hockey, should be introduced in the school curriculum to produce the best sportspersons for the future.
Similarly, women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal said that her team will now train for the upcoming events.
She also spoke in favour of holding a hockey league for both men’s and women’s teams, which will boost the performance of the players.
To perform well in international events, both skill and physical fitness are equally important, she said, adding, “We had worked hard under the guidance of our scientific advisor to improve our fitness before the Olympics.”
In Tokyo, the women’s hockey team’s dream of securing a maiden Olympic medal remained unfulfilled after they lost 3-4 against Great Britain in the bronze medal play-off match, their best ever performance at the Olympic Games.
“Hockey is in the hearts of everyone in Odisha, which gives energy to the players. Odisha has set an example for the others states by promoting hockey. Apart from hockey, the state has also created infrastructure for others sports as well. Other states should adopt one sport each for the promotion and development of all kind of sports in our country,” Rani said.
Sharing her experience of meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, women’s team goalkeeper Savita Punia said, “Despite his busy schedule, Modi Sir talked to us on video call both before and after the Olympics. Yesterday, he talked to all the players individually and also asked us how to improve other sports. He said we have missed the medal, but we touched the hearts of all.”
There has been a lot of change in the country when it comes to hockey, as people are now also watching the women’s game, Savita said.
“If we continue to get such encouragement and support, the performance of the team will definitely improve in the upcoming matches,” she added.
The Odisha government will felicitate the men’s and women’s hockey teams at an event scheduled to be held on Tuesday evening.