IMAGE: India’s goalkeeper P R Sreejesh celebrates on top of the goal crossbar after victory over Germany in the Olympics men’s hockey bronze medal pay- off, at Oi Hockey Stadium, in Tokyo, on Thursday. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters
India’s men’s hockey coach Graham Reid says he feels “privileged” to be part of the game’s revival in India after his team clinched its first Olympics medal in 41 years by beating Germany in the bronze play-off at the Tokyo Games on Thursday.
The 57-year-old Australian, who was a part of Australia’s silver medal-winning team in the 1992 Barcelona Games, took over as India coach in 2019 and has obsessively talked about pursuing a process and investing in youth to get the results at a big stage like the Olympics.
“It is a fantastic feeling; it has come after a lot of sacrifices that the whole group has made,” Reid said referring to the time the players spent away from their families and in some cases, battling COVID-19 as well.
“It takes a long time to get where these athletes have gotten. All the sacrifices that go unseen,” he added, with skipper Manpreet Singh sitting by his side after the 5-4 triumph over Germany.
“…I know that apart from the country, this group has been waiting for a medal for a fairly long time and I know how much hockey means to India and I am privileged to help play a part in that.”
IMAGE: India’s players and coach Graham Reid, extreme right, pose for a picture after winning the Olympics men’s hockey bronze medal. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
India were 1-3 down in the match and Reid said one of the things that had been worked on during his stint was to never lose hope of a comeback.
“Before the game I asked the guys to make sure they bring the next level if something happens. For example, if you are down, you need to bring the next level of play and they did that very well,” Reid explained.
“(It is) never over until it is over. It’s always easy to say you should be doing this or that but there are lots of things that go on,” he added, when asked about the penalty-corner that India conceded just six seconds from the final hooter.
“It has been one of the signatures of this team, which we have tried to develop and make sure that we can always come back and I think we did that.”
IMAGE: IHF President Narinder Dhruv Batra congratulates Harmanpreet Singh after the bronze medal play-off match. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Reid was effusive in praise for veteran custodian P R Sreejesh, who stood like a wall in the face of unrelenting German attacks.
“Having someone like Sreejesh in the goal is nice; glad that we didn’t have to go into a shoot-out. He is a stalwart of Indian hockey. He has done a lot of work in the background to get to where he is.”
The seasoned coach also lauded the efforts made by the Sports Ministry and Sports of Authority of India.
“The funding is there; it is just a matter of keeping these things going. It used to be the National game. All involved with hockey want to see it back,” he said.
“We worked on our mentality. I told them we can change the future and we did that today.”