Chance for Indian hockey team to regain glory at Tokyo Olympics: Harbinder Singh
Hockey Olympian Harbinder Singh with Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.File photo (Hockey India)

Chance for Indian hockey team to regain glory at Tokyo Olympics: Harbinder Singh

New Delhi, July 24, 2020

Thrice hockey Olympic medallist -- a gold and two-bronze -- Harbinder Singh on Friday said that the Manpreet Singh-led squad has a great opportunity to regain glory in the Olympics next year at Tokyo, in a city where India had won the gold way back in 1964.

‘it will be a right time and place for the Indian team to recreate history and reclaim its rightful place in the world,” the veteran Olympian was quoted as saying by Hockey India.

“After more than half a century, the Olympics is again taking place in Tokyo where I saw my dream come true with the Indian team winning the gold medal," said Harbinder.

"I feel it would be a great opportunity for our team to repeat this history in the same place by winning a gold medal and make it as memorable as it was for us in 1964," he said.

The 77-year old forward, who made his debut for India in 1961, Harbinder played in three Olympic Games in a row. He was a member of the gold medal-winning team in 1964 and in the next two Olympics, 1968 (Mexico) and 1972 (Munich) he played for bronze medal-winning teams. In between, he also represented the country in the 1966 Asian Games at Bangkok where India won the hockey gold medal for the first time and at the 1970 Asiad where the team finished second for a silver.

The soft-spoken Olympian said, “It is every hockey fan's dream to watch India win the highest honour -- the Olympic Medal. We have a year to go for the Olympic Games to start, and I wish all the players and support staff preparing for the Tokyo Olympics the very best. I wish they bring laurels for the country.”

Going down the memory lane Harbinder said that, though 56 years have passed, “I still have very vivid memories of our matches in that Olympics. We made it to the final after some very strong performances in the league matches against Belgium (2-0), Germany (1-1 draw), Spain (1-1), Hong Kong (6-0), Malaysia (3-1), Canada (3-0) and Netherlands (2-1). In the semi-final, we had beaten Australia (3-1).

"I cannot forget from our final against Pakistan. I can recall the minutest details of that title clash. It was a tense match and the umpire had warned both teams that if there were to be any foul during the course of the match, then the player would be given a red card and he would be out of the match.

"In the first half of the final, both sides created really good moves, strong chances to score but neither of us succeeded. After a 0-0 stalemate in the first half, India created a penalty corner within five minutes of the second half.

"This was a really good opportunity to score. The hit was taken by Prithipal Singh, who was in great nick having scored 10 goals in total at the Olympic Games. But the hit was defended as the ball hit Pakistan captain (Manzoor Hussain) Atif's foot. This led to the umpire awarding India a penalty stroke.

“This was our golden opportunity and Mohinder Lal was brilliant in converting the goal. We took a 1-0 lead and held on to it till the last second. Though Pakistan did everything they could to equalise and take a lead, we had defended the score with all our heart.”

‘It was a very memorable match and a very thrilling one for me personally because it was my first Olympic Games. Winning a gold medal in my first Olympics was surely a great feeling,” he added.


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