'The game taught me discipline'

Viren Rasquinha was part of the Indian team which won the 2001 Junior World Cup.   -  R. Ragu

Hockey taught me everything, the first and foremost lesson was discipline. I remember my school coach, Marcellus Gomes, also a hockey Olympian, did not allow me to join the training because I was late for school practice. It started at 6.30 a.m. in the morning. That day he taught me about the importance of being on time and discipline. Since then I have never been late for any meeting.

Teamwork is another lesson from hockey, I love team sports and the beauty of working for a team. Hockey taught me the ability to keep trying. In my career I have lost more matches than wins and sport teaches you to come back from defeat. Handling defeat, communication with teammates, having a goal in front of you and working towards it — all happened because of hockey.

I have lifelong friends, lifelong memories which remain in my mind. Photos and videos were not available then. I remember almost every match I played, moments like the first time I walked out on the pitch at the Olympic Games, the first time I captained India. Hockey gave me the opportunity to see the world.

The credibility and reputation I have today is only because of hockey. People know me first and foremost as a hockey player for India, as a player who does everything on the pitch for his country. It feels good and helped me make career moves.Geet Sethi, Prakash Padukone, Viswanathan Anand and myself are on the board of Olympic Gold Quest and we try to ensure the next generation of athletes do not face the same troubles which we faced in our times.

For me, Sportstar is the first magazine I read as a kid. It cost Rs. 7 then, me and my brother pooled in pocket money to buy the magazine. I was born in 1980 and I remember Italia 90 (FIFA World Cup) and being a huge football fan, I used to collect the posters of star players.… Maradona, Matthaeus, Klinsmann.

(As told to Nandakumar Marar)