By Michael Nobbs
Yesterday was a defining moment in Indian hockey. Qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning the Asian Games gold after 16 years and beating archrivals Pakistan in the final on a penalty shootout. It doesn't come any better than this.
The young Indian team will remember this moment for the rest of their lives. India, you should be proud of this.
The game started at a furious pace but Pakistan scored first with a brilliant goal by Muhammed Rizwan Sr two and half minutes into the game. For some reason Pakistan thought they could defend and hold this scoreline for the rest of the game. The quarter finished 1-0 to Pakistan, although India had two simple chances to put the ball in the net but squandered poorly.
The second quarter saw India start to get much more possession and it looked as if it was only a matter of time before the equalizer arrived, and it did with a brilliant deflection goal by Chinglensana Singh.
In the next two quarters, both teams had chances to take lead but failed to capitalise and the game turned into an end-to-end battle as traditional India-Pakistan games tend to do. This was no ordinary game as there was so much at stake and both teams gave everything they had to produce a result at full time. It was not to be, and a pressure-cooker penalty shootout awaited men on both sides.
As I predicted, if India were to win, Sreejesh was going to have to produce the game of his life. Today was his day. He played very well in goals during the full game time and then what happened next was brilliant.
Sreejesh saving goal after goal in the penalty shootout gave India victory. How sweet it was.
This victory was an inspiration for the nation. Hockey is India's spiritual game and now there is a glimpse that India is starting to return to its rightful place in world hockey. A lot of work still needs to be done but now there is time.
The pressure is off to compete in all the qualifying tournaments and now is the time to start to build the next group of players and coaches that are needed to sustain this growth. Help is needed not at the national level but the next group down. Academies need to be supported to bring in modern methods of training, sports science, training the next generation of players in the skills required for international competition.
This is a great first step in India's growth back to the very top.
Enjoy your victory, you earned it. Tomorrow (Friday) in the light of day remember what you have done and don't let this great victory sit there by itself waiting for another 16 years.
This column first appeared on ibnlive.com. Click here for their full Asian Games coverage.
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Updated Date: Oct 03, 2014 10:07:48 IST