CHENNAI: Argentina’s fairytale run to men’s hockey gold at the recent Rio Olympics has garnered quite a few headlines, and more so because traditional powerhouses like Germany, Netherlands and Australia failed to even make the final. The summit clash was between two pre-tournament dark horses — Belgium and the South Americans.
And India forward Ramandeep Singh feels this is because the sport has become as open as ever. “Nowadays, there’s no favourite. Every team has an equal chance of winning, and the Rio Olympics was proof of that. Argentina won gold beating a strong Belgium side, and also thumped Germany 5-2 in the semifinals. Ironically, we beat the winners 2-1 in the group stages. We lost close matches to Germany and Netherlands also. Australia also had a mixed tournament. So the sport has become very open,” said Ramandeep on the sidelines of the 90th MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here.
Familiarity has also been a big factor in success of western sides, he feels. “The whole Belgium squad has been playing together since 2004. Ditto with Argentina. Even Australia, Germany and Netherlands have been together for at least six years. Looking at it that way, it took both the finalists more than ten years to reach the Olympics final. And both played the first such match in their history.
“But the current Indian squad team has only been together for three years, so the performance we put in at the Olympics was good. I’m sure as we play more, this team will corner more success and glory,” opined the Gurdaspur lad.
The national camp for next month’s Asian Champions Trophy in Malaysia will begin in Bengaluru on September 18, and the team knows what to work on. “We will work on our weak points, and what we did wrong in Rio. Attacking play was good there, but that doesn’t mean learning stops. We want to keep improving and getting better. Over the last few years, we have beaten all the teams in Asia, so we are confident of a good showing in Malaysia,” said Ramandeep.
The 23-year-old is also enjoying his stint in Chennai. “This is my first national-level event in three years. And it’s good see such a healthy crowd turn up and watch the teams play. Their support is always a good booster, and it shows that interest levels for the sport are going up,” concluded the Punjab & Sind Bank employee.
Results: ONGC 2-7 Ind Rlys; IOC 1-1 BPCL.