After qualifying for the Olympics, the Indian hockey team is hungry for more. It intends to make a mark in London, and not end up as an also-ran.
One could not miss the team’s self-belief, as it embarked on a tour of France and Spain prior to the London Games. The side will play a few Test matches and a three-nation invitational tournament before reaching the London Games Village on July 19.
Ignace Tirkey, one of the two players (Sandeep Singh being the other) who represented the country in its last Olympics appearance in the 2004 Athens Games, was keen on finishing on the Olympics podium.
“I am fortunate that I am playing in two Olympics. But we should not go to the Olympics just for the sake of participation.
“We should come back with a medal. It is better to play in one Olympics and win a medal, than play in four or five and return empty-handed.
“I hope the young players in the side will return as medal-winning Olympians,” said Ignace with 246 international caps.
Ignace underlined the importance of bagging a medal at a big event. “We won the last major medal in the 1980 Olympics. After that, we do not have a medal either in the Olympics or the World Cup. It is a huge gap. Indian hockey badly needs a major medal. It will do a world of good to the sport in the country.”
The seasoned midfielder, who has moved back to bolster the defence, said the team had to start afresh in London.
“We should forget our wins against Korea or any other side in the Azlan Shah Cup. No doubt, this will boost our confidence.
“But we have to realise that every team will come fully prepared. No game is easy in the Olympics.”
Second goal-keeper P.R. Sreejesh said, after the Olympics qualifier, the players had improved a lot in terms of fitness and confidence. “The confidence and fitness of the players has increased manifold in the last six months. It is going to make a difference. Now, everybody thinks we can give a fight to the top sides in the world.”
“The failure to qualify for the Beijing Games has united us. Everybody thinks that if we fail, we will fail as a team. So, each one of us is highly motivated.”
Vice-captain Sardar Singh said the side was determined to give its best in the Olympics. “We have been working very hard. You can see the difference in the fitness of the players.”
“Personally, I am working on different strategies, as I know that I would be heavily marked by the rival players,” said the skilful linkman.
According to experienced striker Tushar Khandker, the team needed to improve its scoring rate. “We are working on different variations in circle penetration. But we have to better our conversion rate,” he said.
Keywords: 2012 London Olympics