Veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh on Tuesday said the Indian men's hockey side's main focus is qualifying for the Paris Olympics by winning the Asian Games this year besides giving opportunities to youngsters. He said that a lot of youngsters will be given opportunities in a hectic year for the team in which it will compete in marquee events like the Commonwealth Games and Asiad.
The Tokyo Olympic bronze medal-winning side will begin the year with the FIH Hockey Pro League, starting next month. "After every Olympics we plan for next four years. So after Tokyo we have already started planning for the Paris Olympics," Sreejesh said during a virtual media interaction. "There are a lot of changes that are going to happen in the team (for Paris), lot of new comers are going to be added into the core group," he added.
Sreejesh is a part of the International Institute of Sports Management's initiative in which 18 of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics medallist have come together to recite the national anthem in a video, which was released on Monday.
Asked if it is the right time to groom youngsters with the Paris Olympics only two years away, Sreejesh said with several fixtures line up, it will be good to give the junior players a chance. "I didn't say we will get a lot of the youngsters straight into the team but their addition in the core group will give them more opportunity.
We are starting this year with the Pro League before Asian Games and CWG." "We will get almost 16 matches and most probably Asian Cup will be there and that is the platform where we can try out the youngsters, give them opportunities to play tournaments. "At some point you have to give juniors a chance. This year will be good as they can learn a lot from senior most players," Sreejesh added.
The 33-year-old said the team's top priority will be to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. "The first target for us is to qualify for Paris, so Asian Games is the biggest hurdle and after that the World Cup is the second important tournament. The training and the way we are playing now is going great, we have implemented new strategies."
India is set to host the the FIH men's World Cup in January next year. "It's too early to say about World Cup as focus is Asian Games right now. But we are focussing on finishing in the top 4 in Bhubaneswar."