India was once an ominous force on the international hockey stage, having won as many as eight Olympics gold medals between 1928 and 1980. But things have only gone downhill ever since, before a promising 2016 for the Men in Blue.
This miserable state of affairs in Indian hockey is largely attributed to a sense of neglect towards the sport after the rise of cricket’s popularity in the country. The fans have to be held equally responsible, having failed to recognise their team’s achievements and support them during tough times.
And if they are to help the hockey team regain their lost pride, here’s where they can seek inspiration from.
Hockey World League
Some 10 miles away from The Oval in Edgbaston, where India and Pakistan were clashing in the ICC Champions Trophy cricket final, the two countries were going head to head in hockey as well. And while the latter, despite its popularity, ended in defeat, Indian fans found enough reasons to rejoice, with the Men in Blue thrashing their Green counterparts 7-1 in the semi-final of the Hockey World League.
Lost game, won hearts
India was on the cusp of glory, gunning for their first ever Champions Trophy gold in the 2016 final against Australia. After being neck-to-neck at the end of regulation time, Team India though unfortunately lost out 3-1 in the penalty shootout. Wishes nonetheless flew in from across the nation, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rio Olympic qualification
A spirited Indian outfit attracted eyeballs and attention for yet another clash with archrivals Pakistan, in the 2014 Asian Games. It was a nerve-wracking final with India taking the gold after a 4-2 win at Incheon. The result also meant that the Indians earned an entry ticket into the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Although Indian women’s hockey hasn’t really given its fans much to celebrate in the recent past, they outperformed all other neighbouring teams in the 2016 Asia Champions Trophy. Coming back from a goal down in the first period, the Indian ladies defeated their Chinese counterparts 2-1 in the final.
More than most matches and medals, it was a movie that helped women’s hockey gain some much-needed popularity in the India of the 21st century. You’d be lying if you say you didn’t get goose bumps many a time during Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De! India, especially during the Sattar Minute dialogue.