Manpreet Singh and co. have created history by beating Great Britain 3-1 en route to a place in the Olympic semifinal.
A memorable win for the Indian men's hockey team brings back memories of a great past as also an immense struggle that followed after the Indian men failed to retain their supremacy on the world stage.
Tales of the glorious past of Indian hockey and the golden run of the legendary sides of the past continue to captivate until this day - a magical spell, the kind of which has never been witnessed ever again.
𝐃𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞. 𝐃𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧. 𝐓𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤. 👏— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) August 1, 2021
3️⃣ words and a few images to sum up our performance. 📸#IndiaKaGame #HaiTayyar #Tokyo2020 #TeamIndia #TokyoTogether #StrongerTogether #HockeyInvites #WeAreTeamIndia #Hockey pic.twitter.com/GtrMerYlMD
The men who earned India the six consecutive Olympic golds have attained legendary status and deservedly so.
Vasudevan Bhaskaran has been immortalised in the annals of Indian hockey history as the captain of the team which won India's last gold medal in Moscow 1980.
Yet, the AstroTurf surface changed the way hockey was played forever and benefited the European teams whose speed and stamina were no match for the Indians.
Talented players like the late Mohammad Shahid, Merwyn Fernandes, MM Somayya, Jude Felix, Dhanraj Pillai, and many more could never savour the taste of Olympic glory in spite of their individual brilliance.
Indian hockey had gone off the sporting radar for a good two decades, with the sport and the beleaguered players meandering on the edge of oblivion.
It has taken a concerted, determined, and tireless effort for around three decades years now for hockey to reclaim a good share of its lost pride.
India beat hosts the Netherlands in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and won gold in 1932, 1936 (the Games were not held in 1940 and 1944 during the Second World War) 1948, 1952 and 1956 as well.
The Indian team was ethnically and culturally as varied as the country itself with a large number of Anglo-Indians players.
Post-independence, several of them moved to Western Australia and laid the foundations for the rise of the game in their new land.
Former Aussie PC specialist and India's Analytical Coach, Chris Ciriello's grandfather Rudolph Pacheco played for India before migrating Down Under.
Several players moved to the other side of the border and the beneficiaries Pakistan were the first nation to challenge India, wresting away the gold medal from the six-time defending champions in Rome 1960.
India won gold in 1964, but from then on, never ever dominated the game as they had until that point.
India failed to reach the final even once until 1980 and since then have not even qualified for an Olympic semi-final (and on most occasions have not even got anywhere close).
In fact, 2016 was a landmark year in Indian hockey and Roelant Oltmans was the architect of the same.
Slow but steady rise
If anyone had suggested a decade ago that India would be ranked as third best in the hockey world today, the comments would have easily been brushed off as wishful thinking.
Not even the most die-hard of fans could have predicted that India would make it to an Olympic semifinal after the Indians had failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in 2008. A last-place finish in London 2012 was little consolation as the baton passed from one foreign coach to another.
Sree-flex on point! 🤯#IND goalkeeper @16Sreejesh is as quick as a blink with his double save! 🥅👀#Tokyo2020 | #StrongerTogether | #UnitedByEmotion | #BestOfTokyo | @TheHockeyIndia pic.twitter.com/98CCZPdGx2— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) August 1, 2021
A quarterfinal finish in Rio 2016 marked the beginning of a new dawn and the boys have only gotten better since.
Yet, as the reality sinks in, that India are indeed in an Olympic semifinal. one needs to laud everyone involved as such a transformation could not have happened overnight.
Graham Reid's team have displayed great character in the manner in which they held the midfield together and also kept their cool for the most part in what was an absolute high-pressure game.
History now beckons as does a podium finish for Indian hockey and the many die-hard supporters who now rejoice in the glory of the moment.