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WION Sports | Road to Tokyo: Indian men’s Hockey team special

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[Applause] [Music] hello and welcome to another we on sports special as we build up towards the tokyo olympics the story of india at the olympic games begins with hockey eight olympic gold medals and a total of 11 medals between 1928 to 1980. can the class of 2021 end if 41 year old wait to get back on that podium i am joined from bengaluru by three men who are going to be integral in that quest graham reed is the chief coach of the men’s hockey team is also an olympic silver medalist from the barcelona games manpreet singh is the captain of this team and is headed to his third olympics and also at the games for a third time is the veteran keeper pr sri jaish thank you so much all three of you for joining me graham let me start with you because when you took up the india job you sort of knew the pressures that came with it considering the interviews that you’ve done in the last month are you now completely aware of how desperate the indian fans are for rocky medal at the olympics i hadn’t noticed actually no but uh yeah definitely everyone gets very excited about it and uh and it’s great to see i think that was one of the one of the major things that uh that that i think has has surprised me is is how how much the indian people get behind this this group and and uh it’s lovely to see okay is he putting pressure on you every day before and after every session boys we’ve got to do this we’ve got to do this um officially no unofficially yes so because anyway so when whenever whatever we does that there will be a uh there will be a result we are looking forward towards a object so uh when we done with one sessions we always looking looking towards that session and he always says that okay whether it’s good for us or bad for us uh or what we what we learned uh so these all things are really important for us and definitely that there are indirectly a lot of support and pressure on us uh with with all around the world now not only from the coach jokes aside third games for you the olympics how do you see the change in approach since london 2012 where india had a forgettable campaign to now actually this time we are we are really uh you know looking forward to finishing the podium but for that we need to start with the step by step so we are taking this time like every match like we have to give every best in every single matches so we are going by match by match so we have to give our best we have to finish the first group then we will go to for quarter final then semi-finals every game every game as it comes uh graham from coaching sort of philosophy you know how have you had to change your approach now normally as we’ve seen the olympics as you’ve competed in the olympics back then and these boys have uh london onwards uh the olympics means exposures it means lots of matches sort of heading into the games the pandemic has thrown all of that out of the window and it’s sort of a journey to the unknown isn’t it yeah definitely it is a different olympics i must admit i i haven’t uh this is this will be my fifth and i haven’t seen a a preparation like this before to be honest um you know i think we’re up to about plan h or k at the moment um we’ve had so many different uh opportunities or things that have come up but didn’t end up happening so we again i think uh one of the things last year when when we went into this uh into this quarantine or it feels like it’s it’s been quarantined for 15 months which it you know pretty much has been um you know we said look we can only control things that are inside these borders and and that’s what we’ve tried to do really focus on what what we can change in here and uh and the other things will look after themselves you know we we can’t change the fact that we we for example right now we we’re we’re trying to get a little bit earlier in into the olympics and uh and you know with all the all the problems that that the games are having as far as uh covert is concerned though all those things we can’t do anything about so we just uh let the powers that be worked out that out for us and but what we can control is our environment in here and that’s been great okay uh i i’ll get srija shane on that as well graham because obviously shri with the virus still around and uncertainty prevailing as as graham mentioned there is a huge onus on the players to be safe now how crucial do you think will it be for you manpreet and the few others who’ve been to the games uh to guide your team through what promises to be a very tricky stay at the olympic village uh definitely this this one this is a new new thing for us also because the previous olympics were more it’s like a festival so everyone used to walk around they used to meet each other sharing the same dining hall you know going to the other venues to watch others to play so this time it’s going to be really tricky and what the one thing which we are telling to everyone is like just focus on your business because that is most important than anything else rather than uh worrying about what is happening around the world who is positive who is going to negative so uh it’s most important for us to focus in our business first of all second thing yeah somewhere you are being a part of olympics games you need to get that flavor of the olympics games because most of them i mean majority of our team members are going for the first time so definitely they just wanted to explore this olympics so uh being a senior most once we don’t want to take that kind of joy from them but still uh we just wanted to remind them that our priority is to play better and finish in the podium so that’s the one thing which we always trigger them we always try to keep get that thought into their mind when you when you when you talk about flavor of the olympics graham i’m not sure you’re aware of this but at rio all these boys were waiting for that bus to take them for dinner or lunch wherever it was and suddenly they come across novak djokovic so they all run up to novak djokovic and take selfies with him shri don’t do that this time the ioc will find you i next to him so definitely it’s so it’s all our priority yeah uh well manpreet uh unfortunately you came down with kobet 19 last year and the others in the team too sort of have been isolated on and off because that’s that’s the way life is at the moment do you sort of dwell on that experience and and draw on it to get through the 14 15 days at these at these olympic games inside the village where there are so many restrictions actually um first of all when i got positive last year so it was like a bit difficult for me because the first person i got the positive and the people around me so i got so much net uh you know negative things around people but the special thanks i would say my teammates and the coaching side they’ve been checking on us every single day then they’ve been telling us that don’t worry you will come out from this and just we are all with you so that was the positive part from my team and my sporting staff and yeah this time when the olympics will be difficult as the she already mentioned that this time we have to follow the protocols and the rules but if we can see that last uh almost one and a half year we’ve been following those uh protocols here in asia so we are wearing a mask we are going to the ground and we are coming back to the rooms we are not uh meeting other peoples too because it’s really crucial this time because anybody can get positive so we need to be follow the rules and protocols okay graham just picking up on that you’ve had 16 months with this team sort of since this pandemic broke out now like the rest of india you were locked down at camp last year uh has this toughened the team up and uh what did you do to sort of keep them engaged because i remember even at that point of time you weren’t even allowed to go and play hockey uh on the pitch which is about 150 meters down the the campus in bengaluru yeah it’s a good question we um you know initially we uh we we stayed inside our rooms and as you say we weren’t even really allowed to to leave you know that first i remember a couple of weeks so we had a lot of zoom meetings i think uh i think we we managed to zoom out a lot was over zoom if you like you know um but uh during that period funny you should mention it we actually read your book the the olympics book and and uh we we studied the previous olympic games and and all the i think there was something like 50 uh 50 of india’s leading um leading olympians uh gave us stories and and we asked all of the players to tell us all what the learnings were and and i think the most common thing of it was uh the most common thing that that most of the olympians regretted was not being together during the during the olympic process and and i think what tends to happen uh when you get to an olympic village you get distracted lots of things come in between each other and and that’s been uh one of the big things that we’ve talked about is being together being connected making sure that we do that and and uh so yeah that was that’s sort of what gave us a little bit of focus that early on but to to be honest um one of the things that i’ve been talking about a lot lately is is getting them getting our guys to understand that going through a crisis going through adversity as a group is something that will bond you for life and and don’t underestimate the effect that that can have when the chips are down and and you know to me that’s that’s the really where you get belief you get understanding you get trust so yeah that’s that’s sort of the the messages that we’ve been talking about you’re sort of making me suddenly feel very embarrassed you know you don’t expect to have these things thrown in your face when you when you’re doing a preview show to the olympics sri jaish was in that book i don’t know if you read his chapter so i’m so happy just mentioned top 50 athletes apart from apart from strangers the rest were fantastic i’ve also been following the team close to now two decades you know i’ve seen the evolution especially that attack attack attack philosophy we had at london to the more uncompromising style right now when you sort of want to you want to press you want you want to control the game what according to you is our greatest strength in terms of a team and i asked this because we haven’t seen you playing much in the last 14 15 months if you’re talking about our strength like we are good in our counter attacks right we’re having a good uh force already believe in the indian hockey that we having a magic skills so we should use that with the attacking hockey we can get more uh circle penetrations and we working on it this time like whenever we are going to open its uh circle we should get the outcome from that before that what’s happened like we went to the opponent circle we lost the boss we didn’t get any outcome but this time we’ve been working on that whenever we go to the opener circle we should get a planet corner as we having a really good drag flickers we should use them and also whenever you get a charge you should take the shot on the goal otherwise whoever is in a good place far same who the person can create a good opportunity for the team okay graham it also sort of boils down doesn’t it to self-belief this team reached the final of the champions trophy i remember ahead of the rio games against your australian side and sort of you know you’ve seen that change ever since you know they’ve we’ve sort of beaten all the teams out there and that that fear factor which which i had seen previously in indian teams when you played the likes of australia germany netherlands that isn’t there anymore no and that’s the great thing and i think it probably started back with the hockey india league and they realized that you know these players from from australia and from holland and from germany they have two legs they have two arms the same as us you know it’s it uh and i think that’s probably what started the the understanding that they these guys are as good if not better than anyone and you know you then bring along the juniors who won the junior world cup you know there is there’s a belief that they know that they are the best in the world and when they play well and uh so you mix with that some of the experience uh players that we have then you know i think it’s a really good mix and and that’s uh and you’re right it’s it’s about self-belief and it’s about understanding but it’s also about trusting the preparation that we’ve done you know we we had something like 29 of our 33 do personal bests in their fitness tests we had you know 12 or 13 of the squad uh run the test out you know that that it’s quite quite fantastic sort of results so you know they’re the things that that really give you the confidence and that belief and that’s what i also keep talking about you know when you when you study for an exam um and you do lots of preparation then you go in with confidence it’s the same with uh with with a tournament or or sport if if you trust your preparation and know that you’ve done what we need to do then then that that belief can also help you know i was actually speaking to abhinav bhindra who’s india’s only individual olympic gold medalist and and he said that ahead of the beijing games he looked himself in the mirror and asked himself have i prepared the best i could for these olympic games and he said uh the answer came back yes i have and after that the result is sort of not a factor if you give it your best shot then you sort of know that you’ve you’ve covered all bases i’m not going to ask you uh to give away your game plan graham but uh it’s it’s one thing so to sort of beat the top teams home and away and as you know it all too well then doing it in a pressure cooker situation at the olympics because out there the margins are extremely fine yeah and that’s a late sport you know that’s that’s what that’s why we love it so much you know every sport has that unknown factor that that uh you know no one knows what’s going to happen um so we have to make it happen and and and uh we were doing a webinar the other day and and and it reminded me of of uh of a couple of stories but one of them uh was was the world cup in 2010 in delhi and australia was playing germany and i happened to be on the bench coaching uh rick was up in the stands and we were one deal up against the germans the germans came back to um one all you know and it was like bring it on let’s go boys you know let’s now we stand up now we have a game you know and and uh i i was sort of reminding uh manpreet the other day that that’s that’s what happened in in in pro league for example in in the game against holland we were three one down with three quarters you know we had we had someone off the pitch so we were at ten men and and they were just coming on and we said right we’re now back to eleven let’s go you know we can we and it was great to see the boys lifted and you know we got back to three or it could have been 4-3 in the last minute or so the last 10 seconds and we took it to shootouts and won and they’re the sort of experiences that i think really is what ends up you know counting against what what we know this team can do since you mentioned shootouts i’ll go to the shootout king shri no easy games at the olympics or the world cup as as graham was mentioning but uh what was the sort of team’s reaction when you saw the groupings for tokyo argentina australia new zealand spain and japan who pipped you to the gold at the asian games in jakarta they uh as memphis already mentioned about this when when it comes to olympics games or world cup it’s really tough to judge anything with their performance because when they are on their their on that particular day on the field they just give that to other persons to win that man and to make it to the conference or into the semis of finance so from the team when you take it like japan uh they are having the advantage of their own home ground and definitely with the weather uh when it comes to australia they are dominating now within in the pro leagues when it comes to argentina they will come to the games with with the previous uh 2016 gold medal memory so it’s it’s not so easy for us and definitely we missed playing against new zealand and spain uh recently but still i believe that it’s uh the pre the last one of years what we’ve done here in bangalore how hard we train so we just need to look into ourselves how hard we worked how better we prepared now is the time for execution and there is no chance for us to regret after this tournament so definitely this whole sacrifice what we made from last one and a half years is going to pay us a great support in the olympics games and i believe that we can achieve it okay i like that optimism you know earlier indian teams and and i don’t meet any disrespect here but uh they would have looked at the draw and i have followed a fair bit of hockey and you know they would have said in your punjabi aren’t though or simply as as the court said bring him on now as part of your preparation do you specifically prepare for each team in the build-up yes actually last one and a half year we’ve been watching every single team so we’ve been you know analyzing them really closely that we should know that if you are playing playing with the australia what is their strength what is their weakness which is their key players so we’ve been working out until now we are like we having every players having their uh data that okay fine i’m going playing with the australia today so these are the players it’s good so how we gonna defend them we will watch the video says yes we this is the way we’re gonna stop them so we have been analyzing every single team so at least we feel that we have prepared for that and she said that like we’re gonna do our best we’re gonna give up 200 percent every single matches okay again i’m gonna throw that to you as well because you know unlike uh football uh and we’re seeing that right now where there is a gap in tournament play the olympics are relentless sort of seven games in 14 15 days if you have to go all the way then it’s going to be hot and humid as well in tokyo yeah it’s definitely a um going to be a tough seven or eight days um so yeah that that’s one of the the factors of course uh that we have been thinking about for a long time it’s uh one of the reasons where we have been really focusing on on our fitness that we were there in 2019 for the test event and and then we realized how how humid it is and and it may not necessarily even be that hot you you look at the at the weather forecast for example and it doesn’t look that hot but you get there and it is you know that that um that humidity is is sometimes above 80 percent and and that can eat away at your uh yeah and then this time also we normally you you have a game and then you have a day off and then you have another game this time we have two back to back so they’re they’re all factors that that we uh that we have to come come to terms with i think every every training session we you know we say this is nothing this is nothing compared to tokyo it’s going to be hot okay they can deal with the heat of course i’m not sure about the heat of battle but also another important point since you mentioned the uncertainties that are still going around with covet around how do you prepare for the unexpected you could have a situation and i’m not i’m not wishing this on you that a player from another team test positive and one of your boys could be manpreet has tackled him in a game and sort of that is ruled as a close contact like what we saw with mason mount and ben chilwell of england during during the euros yeah okay well i mean those things yeah if if you play someone out on the pitch you you cannot be thinking about those sort of things so it’s just one of those things that uh that you like to think that uh common sense will prevail and and you know close contact is more like 15 minutes in the same sort of room you know that’s what you sort of hope but if if that call is made then then you know i think we’ve been through a lot of different scenarios in the last 16 months i think if you were to name all of them we’d be able to say tick you know stay in your room for two weeks and not see anybody tick um stay in your hotel room and not not not come out tick you know so there are we’ve i think we’ve uh we’ve managed to come across most of the scenarios so yeah i think i think uh as as uh as you were saying before if you look in the mirror i think we’ve we’ve uh we’ve tried to prepare as well as we can and i think we have okay you sort of one of the most experienced players not just in this team but also in world hockey i’m not calling you old but but you know looking back in hindsight and looking back at all the experience that you’ve gained considering covid considering restrictions considering all the sort of tests that you’ll have to undergo as as part of an indian contingent what are the factors do you think that will sort of decide the final four at the games in hockey because after that it all boils down to luck doesn’t it uh big j lasts one and a half years i think this quarantine this test or what is the coverts become part of our life because none of them in this world but except us we we were here like every day i mean 365 days in doing quarantine so there is nothing special about what we are going to face there in uh in the in the village because you need to stay in a whole hostel that’s we are doing here you are just allowed to go to the training center that’s that’s what we are doing here and over to that we can go to the i mean dining hall to have our lunch so this is what we are doing here and this is what we are expecting in um uh japan and when it comes to tournaments definitely as olympics there are pressure but when the team is really prepared we can manage the pressure but there’s one thing which coach and you also already mentioned is a human so that’s the time we need to use the sensible hockey where you don’t need to run you don’t need to run because there you are saving some energy but where you need to put extra pressure you just go for it because then one second one moment we can turn the entire match result into a negative way or either into a positive way so now past one and a half years we are all trying to make that one seconds favor for us because as you know that before we had a false uh accused as like we consider goals in the last minutes last seconds but now we changed it and we uh we we scored last in argentina we scored a last seconds goal so these sort of things we are gathering all this confidence uh to use uh to use that as an energy in tokyo to perform really better uh to make the indian uh condition or not really the the indian fans hockey fans more more happy and bring back that glorious day back into her i mean back into india okay we’re all waiting for that day we’re all waiting for that i remember the excitement when you guys won the uh asian games gold in 2014. uh man played this team you know following this team for so long what you know i get a feeling that it’s been knocking on the doors for a while i felt it that at the world cup in in orissa in 2018 we were unlucky sort of not to beat the dutch in the quarters within the group you know within within all all the players the coaching staff do you get that feeling as well that you’re there it’s just about getting your act together all together all the pieces fitting in the jigsaw puzzle for those 15 16 days yes actually if you’re talking about the last world cup yes we were unfortunate that we lost the quarter finals but we learned the lesson from there so after that we improved a lot last if you uh go back in the last year in january when we played the matches with belgium uh australia and netherlands we actually paid them as coach already mentioned that earlier we were uh down with the three one and the fourth quarter we scored two goals and we won on the shootout so that kind of conference we have everyone having right now so that the thing is we need to just work on ourselves like as coach mentioned should we already mention that we have to give our best in tokyo so because the mesh is not going to be easy so we have to give our best and we have to believe on ourselves and believe on our structure and believe on the teammates okay a final final word to you graham because you know just hearing both sri jaish and manpreet you sort of get the feeling that the baggage of the past doesn’t wait too much on this group perhaps like it had on the teams you played against or or when you were coaching we don’t sort of know what the final result will be as sport is fickle and unpredictable but you know does this pandemic present india with a godsend opportunity because uh just let’s face it a lot of teams haven’t played as much as they would have liked we don’t know what other teams have been doing uh and for this team as well there hasn’t been as much scrutiny on them and sort of pressure being heaped on them like it had been in the last two or three olympics heading into them yeah i think uh my comment on that would be that our major mantle to be honest apart from the together and the team first has been next thing mentality you know it’s about what comes next you can’t change what what’s just happened and sometimes it can be a bad tackle sometimes it could be uh you know something that happened in the past um now it’s uh it’s about looking at the next thing that we need to do it’s the next tackle it’s the next pass all those things are really important and uh and that includes what’s happened previously in in previous olympics or previous games against particular teams and none of that matters what matters is is uh is what’s coming up next and you know that’s the real uh that’s the real power i think and and we have to harness that okay hopefully the last 16 months have seen you harness it and as you said it’s made you sort of toughen these boys up you have about six players who’ve played the olympics before the uh the others haven’t sort of been to the olympics but what the feeling you sort of get after this conversation is that you know you all have prepared for all eventualities on that note gentlemen thank you so much uh for your time i can’t wait to see you in action it’s been such a while hasn’t it uh it’s a as we were talking it’s been uh it’s going to be a different olympics but then it is the olympic games after all one preach and graham wishing you very best for the game stay safe and play well thank you very much [Music] you

WION Sports | Road to Tokyo: Indian men\'s Hockey team special

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