Hockey: P R Sreejesh, Savita Punia named FIH Goalkeepers of the Year
New Delhi, October 5, 2022
Ace Indian goalkeepers P R Sreejesh and Savita Punia on Wednesday were declared the FIH Goalkeepers of the Year in the men's and women’s categories, respectively.
Earlier, striker Mumtaz Khan won the FIH Rising Female Star of the Year Award.
This was announced by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in a media statement released from Lausanne, Switzerland.
The 34-year-old Indian shot-stopper continues to raise his game as the years roll on. In his 16th year as a full international for India, Sreejesh showed his value to the Indian team, playing in all 16 games in the FIH Pro League as India finished in the third position, and all 6 games at Birmingham Commonwealth Games where the team won the silver medal.
During the course of the season, Sreejesh also completed 250 appearances for India, becoming the 8th Indian to achieve the figure, and the only goalkeeper to do so.
As a senior member of the team, Sreejesh performs a dual role where on one hand he is the vocal leader, commanding his forces from the back of the defense, while off the field he is also the player that organizes the best gatherings and celebrations.
Sreejesh now becomes the third goalkeeper to win back-to-back FIH Goalkeeper of the Year awards. A similar feat was achieved in the past by David Harte (Ireland) who won the award in 2015 and 2016, and Vincent Vanasch (Belgium) who won it three consecutive times from 2017 to 2019. Sreejesh finished the voting with 39.9 total points, followed by Belgium’s Loic van Doren who finished second with 26.3 points and Netherlands’ Primin Blaak in third place scoring 23.2 points.
Savita is now only the third athlete to win the Goalkeeper of the Year (women) for consecutive years since the inception of the award in 2014, finishing on top with 37.6 points. Argentina legend Belén Succi received second most points with 26.4, followed by Hockeyroos stalwart Jocelyn Bartam who finished with 16 points
Her win comes from her goalkeeping heroics, but her impact on her team looms even larger, as not only is she the backbone of the defense, but also plays a crucial role in leading the side, having taken over captaincy from the talismanic Rani Rampal, who missed large parts of the previous year due to injury.
She was magnificent in defence of the goal, often astounding her opponents with her ability to pull off saves from impossible situations. It therefore comes as no surprise that she received nearly twice as many votes from her peers around the world, as anyone else nominated in the best goalkeeper category at the FIH Hockey Stars Awards.
Savita was instrumental in leading India to a podium finish in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021-22, in their debut campaign, pulling off an astounding 57 saves in the 14 games she played!
Her form only improved at the FIH World Cup, as she pulled off some incredible saves as India held the eventual gold medalists England to a draw in the Pool stages. She also had a remarkable game in the cross-over match against Spain, making 7 saves that had the viewers rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
At the Commonwealth Games, Savita once again inspired her team, as they ended a 16-year podium drought at the games. Savita had a stellar game in the bronze medal match against New Zealand, which included multiple match-winning saves in the shoot-out, that brought about the end of the medal drought for the Indian women’s team and sparked wild celebrations!