CHITRADURGA: A resurgent India has shown the world that the fire is still alive, and Thursday’s 5-4 victory over a strong German side is much to cheer about. In fact, the Tokyo Olympics win is reminiscent of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, when India brought home the gold in hockey.
Former India captain and lone Karnataka player of the winning team, MM Somaiah, said the game at Tokyo reminded him of the day they had played Spain in the finals, and a timely turn by his teammates helped the team scoop up a victory.
“The present team, which was 1-3 down, fought back well against Germany and equalled the score 3-3 by half-time, and finally won 5-4. The bronze medal has given a new lease of life for Indian hockey and the team should start strengthening its game now on, so that we go back to the golden era,” he added.
The country’s national sport, which was in a slump for some time, is back in the forefront and needs government support to surge ahead, Somaiah added. India’s bronze medal effort has come in for praise by many former internationals, who felt the players showed the grit they did in the Moscow Olympics finals; July 29, 1980 is a red-letter day for India.
The lanky right-half from Kodagu said the present team is mentally tough and doesn’t fear beating teams with higher rankings. “Though down 1-3, the Indians bounced back as the final whistle was blown. The entire team played a cohesive game and as a single unit. We are emotionally charged by the way our boys fought back,” he said.
Timely intervention by coach Graham Reid and the technical bench also helped the team excel in all aspects of the games, said Somaiah. He said that players at all levels need more exposure, and the academies at Punjab, Haryana, Odisha and Manipur should be replicated in every corner of the country, to tap and train the best hockey talents.
On the need to support hockey in Karnataka and especially Kodagu, Somaiah said the game needs support from all sections of society, including the government, so that young talents can be nurtured. Reacting to a question on foreign coaches, he said the nationality of coaches is immaterial, but the person in charge of the team should give it his best shot.
The performance of the Indian team was exemplary, and our boys scripted a historic win on foreign soil after a gap of four decades. All the players played exceptionally well, though the efforts of goalkeeper PR Sreejesh were really commendable and his saves were excellent. The performance should inspire youngsters, so that hockey can flourish again in the country and Karnataka, said former goalkeeper and Hockey Karnataka secretary AB Subbaiah.
He said the time has come for governments to frame a sports policy where more school-level hockey tournaments and competitions take place. The private sector should also support sports in a big way, he added.