Bir Bahadur Chettri, a goalkeeper in the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning side, is thrilled after the Indian men's hockey team ended a 41-year wait to make it to the medal round in Tokyo on Sunday.
Chettri said the unity and cohesiveness among the current Indian players reminded him of his own 1980 Olympic side. He was delighted to see India record a creditable 3-1 win over Great Britain in the quarterfinals.
“The way this team played, they made me very happy. They have brought happiness to all Indians. If they continue to play like this, they can beat Belgium (even though it’s the World champion and is very strong) and reach the final,” said Chettri.
Chettri saw a similarity between his team and the current outfit. “In the 1980 team, there was no senior-junior feeling. We played together as a unit. Similarly, the current team has shown unity and has been playing really well.”
Chettri was disheartened by India’s big 7-1 defeat to Australia in a group match. “I thought they would not do well. But they bounced back nicely and won four consecutive matches. I liked the way they maintained the tempo till the end of today's [Sunday's] match and scored goals in the closing minutes. I just hope they keep playing like this and make us happier.”
Chettri showered praise on seasoned goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh for his superb showing under the bar. “Sreejesh is still playing so well even at this stage of his career. If a goalkeeper plays like this and makes two three brilliant saves, then he boosts the confidence of the whole side. Besides, he is guiding the team well from his position,” said Chettri.