Former skipper Zafar Iqbal has cautioned the Tokyo-bound Indian men’s hockey team against complacency, saying the atmosphere at the Olympics will be very different from the test events and there will be no room for slip-ups or experimentation.
With less than 30 days to go for the Tokyo Games, the Indian team is gearing up for the marquee event.
“The team is ranked 4th in the world which in itself is a great achievement. I kept an eye on their performances in the tour against Argentina, where they played well,” Iqbal was quoted as saying in a Hockey India release.
“I just have to say that the Olympic atmosphere is very different from test games. There is no room for any slip-ups or experiments here, and self-belief and self-determination in each player are going to be the most valuable traits for the team,” he added.
The iconic forward also recalled the victorious memories of India’s last gold-winning campaign in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“The memory of 1980 will remain with me forever. It was more than a personal achievement as it was such a big moment for the country as well. It was the 8th Gold medal in hockey for the country, which is a record that will surely stand for a long, long time.
“It was a tough campaign for us because most of the members in that team were young players and debutants at the Olympics. I believe only Vasudevan Baskaran and Bir Bahadur Chhetri had played in the 1976 Olympics previously. I remember that the final against Spain was a really difficult match. Mohammed Shahid was our key player in the final, and he played extraordinarily that day,” Iqbal said.
Fondly nicknamed the ‘Gentleman of Hockey’, Iqbal had the prestigious distinction of being the flag bearer of the Indian contingent in the opening ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
He also led the men’s hockey team that year. While Iqbal had a distinguished playing career filled with many such highlights, he recalls one particular match as his fondest personal memory.
“I still remember the 1982 Champions Trophy encounter against Pakistan in Holland. We were trailing 0-3 against our rivals in the early phase of that game, and we staged a huge comeback to win that game 5-4 in the end.
“Rajinder Singh Jr scored 3 goals in that game to lead us to a memorable win. That was a beautiful feeling,” he said.
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