Coronavirus Outbreak: India's hockey players request Sports Minister to allow on-field training
India's men's and women's hockey teams told the minister that resumption of on-field training in small groups as soon as possible will give them an upper-hand over other top nations as they gear up for Olympics next year
New Delhi: Lack of training is an obvious concern but India's hockey players are also feeling homesick and they made that known to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju in an online interaction on Thursday while pleading for the limited resumption of practice.
The Indian men's and women's hockey teams told the minister that resumption of on-field training in small groups as soon as possible will give them an upper-hand over other top nations as they gear up for Olympics next year.
"The players stated that they were feeling homesick but they very well understand that they are safe here. They just want to resume training to divert unwanted thoughts that creep in their minds," a source told PTI.
Both the Indian men and women's hockey teams have been at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) South Centre in Bengaluru since the start of the coronavirus -forced lockdown on 25 March.
In the virtual meeting, which also featured Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials, the players and coaches requested for an early resumption of training in a group of four or five.
"Out of the top 12 teams in the world, only Holland and Belgium have restarted training. We have lost close to 2 months but if we can start training at the earliest we will be in an advantageous position.
"We haven't lost much but now it's time to begin training," a member of the Indian hockey team management was quoted as having told Rijiju during the meeting.
Sources privy to the development told PTI that the coaching staff emphasised on how Indian hockey will be a gainer if training is resumed at the earliest after following all safety protocols.
"The training can be started in a group of 4 or 5 maintaining social distancing norms. The focus of the training will be on basic and individual skills besides shooting and penalty corner practice drills."
Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to 2021 due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
According to sources, the minister gave a patient hearing and took note of feedback during the meeting which was attended by 34 men and 24 women hockey players.
Besides, chief coaches of the men's and women's hockey teams, Graham Reid and Sjoerd Marine and High-Performance Director David John were also present.
Hockey India and SAI's top officials and new Sports Secretary Ravi Mittal were also present.
The players then emphasised on the need to start training to keep their minds occupied.
"Fitness-wise the players said that they are in the best shape and have been working daily on the modules prepared by scientific advisors Robin Arkell (men's team) and Wayne Lombard (women's team)."
"But they said they need to hit the ground soon to work on their stamina," the source said.
Qatar's PM had announced in June that it would require any fans wanting entry into next year's tournament to be fully inoculated against the coronavirus, but has said nothing about the policy for players yet
Sreejesh's former teammates Rupinder Pal Singh, Birendra Lakra and SV Sunil had recently retired following a successful Olympic campaign to pave the way for youngsters.
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