London Olympics: India could surprise Holland in first Olympic hockey match, says coach Michael Nobbs

first_imgStanding at the River Bank arena and gazing into the cloudy London sky, the two stalwarts of Indian hockey Sandeep Singh and Ignace Tirkey soaked in the atmosphere on Sunday.These two men are sole survivors from the 2004 Athens Olympics and are again in focus because of their fitness as India begin their league campaign against former champions Holland.From Athens to London it has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride for Indian hockey. Having finished eighth in Athens, the team did not even qualify for the Beijing Olympics.Understandably, there was an outcry at home as our national sport had gone to the dogs. It was a harsh truth which was hard to digest and making it back to the Olympic fold earlier this year by winning the qualifier in New Delhi has come as a whiff of fresh air.However, one shouldn’t get fooled that this team is going to finish in the medal bracket as equations in global hockey have changed so drastically.Holland, India’s first opponent, were champions in Athens 1996 and Sydney 2000, but have lost some amount of grip after that.But if one is to hear coach Michael Nobbs ‘ words, then there is a statement in it. “Once these boys step on to the turf on Monday, there can be no denying they become Olympians. And that is a huge tag which you can’t take away,” said the Australian who has played at the highest level.India are currently ranked 10th in the world by the FIH and are placed with potent Germany, New Zealand, Korea and Belgium.In the other pool, neighbours Pakistan are placed with Britain, South Africa, Australia and Spain.On the eve of the big match, captain Bharat Chetr i was relaxed. “We want to produce a good display and are eager to show that the London connection with Indian hockey is not just symbolic,” said Chetri.The overall mood and sense is that world champions Australia and Olympic champions Germany will again be hot contenders for the title.As regards Pakistan, their hockey has been in turmoil after they won gold in the Guangzhou Asian Games and qualified for the London Olympics.Frequent change in the officialdom of the Pakistan Hockey Federation and treating players shabbily has been their bane. And when some of their players came to India recently for the cash-rich World Hockey League, it led to a bigger uproar.How well the Asian champions can take these upheavals in their stride remains to be seen.Back to India, not having played Holland recently could be a boon says Nobbs. “We could surprise them with our play as we have had a change in the team with a lot of youngsters turning out in this particular Olympics,” said Nobbs.While nobody is expecting miracles from the Indian hockey team, they have worked hard on their fitness. After the highs and lows of battles between two federations in India, matters have settled.Common perception is that the Indian Hockey Federation ruined the sport and in the four years after failing to make it to Beijing, there is now more exposure and inputs for the Indian team.Even though Hockey India, which now runs the sport has its share of detractors at home, the good thing is we are at least there at the London Olympics.advertisementlast_img

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