The Indian Football community wished all the best to the Indian Olympic contingent ahead of the Tokyo Games, as athletes from around the country get ready for the Global extravaganza that is about to begin on July 23.
In an AIFF TV show hosted by Indian Women’s Football Team goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan, the Indian Football community got a deeper insight into how the Indian Men’s Hockey Team’s preparations for the Olympics are going on, from none other than ‘world’s best’ goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
“It (the preparation) started almost last 2 years back, after the World Cup in Odisha was over. We started our campaign for the Olympics. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we got an extra year, so the preparation is a bit different this time,” Sreejesh said on AIFF TV.
“Generally we travel a lot, and play a lot of practice matches. We do a lot of acclimatisation to the climate. But this time we have been camping in Bengaluru for past one and a half years. We have had hardly any time to meet our families,” explained Sreejesh. “We have been training hard, and we’ve been working on different strategies, analysing our opponents as well.”
The Indian Men’s Hockey team, currently ranked 4th on the FIH World Rankings, have been drawn in Pool A in the Olympics, alongside the likes of hosts Japan, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Spain. The India keeper went on to state, however, that the preparations for the Olympics this time, has been more of a journey of “self-realisation” for the boys.
“Whenever any of the teams have played any match, we have been watching. We’ve also watched our own videos and tried to figure out our strengths and weaknesses. These one and a half years have been a lot about self-realisation, rather than worrying about others,” he informed.
The Indian Women’s Hockey Team, on the other hand, have also been drawn in Pool A of their respective competition, and are ranked 10th on the FIH World Rankings. Sreejesh believes that the there’s a good atmosphere in the women’s team, and that they can prove to the world that they are amongst the best.
“They (the Women’s Hockey Team) are experienced enough. I believe they carry a good atmosphere wherever they go, and they will prove that they are one of the best teams,” he said. “They have been playing well, and if they continue that in the Olympics they can win.”
While the Olympics are a celebration of various sporting disciplines, the athletes also tend to feel the pressure once they reach the big stage.
“It can be tricky, once you get to the Olympics. It’s an absolute pressure cooker situation. You always go into the Olympics with a lot of expectations – expectations from fans and expectations from your family. Especially your family, because they want their kid to win something over there. The thing is, the ones who do well on the day, are the ones who turn out to be the champions,” he averred.
The two custodians also took some time to discuss their respective crafts. Though both of them are goalkeepers, there are certain subtle differences in the role of a keeper in football to that of a hockey goalkeeper.
“Hockey goalkeepers never have to hold or catch the ball. But in football its essential to hold or control the ball. I remember in training (for a charity football game of which he was a part), Sunil Chhetri used to tell me – ‘Sree, you need to catch the ball’, but I wasn’t that confident,” laughed Sreejesh. “I just kicked the ball out with all my power because I was just not used to controlling or catching it. I remember even my friends had later messaged that the commentators were talking about the same thing.”