Chak De Our Girls- It’s Hockey Time, Folks

The world of sports was left awestruck when the Indian eves defeated the defending Champion Australia 1-nil in the Quarterfinal of the Women’s hockey today at the Tokyo Olympics. This was perhaps hitherto the sweetest surprise at the ongoing edition of the World’s biggest sporting extravaganza. Crossing the insurmountable kangaroo barrier by the ninth-ranked Team India was not only an arduous mission, but something which needed extraordinary grit, self-belief and robust optimism. And the young girls led by the girl with dogged determination Rani Rampaul and coached by the maverick Sjoerd Marijne indeed had all the materials needed to make the impossible possible. A 22nd-minute stunner from the ace drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur shocked the complacent Aussies and then onwards each second of the remaining thirty-eight minutes of the game was spent by defending the score. And those tense minutes actually saw the transformation of a vulnerable unit into a resolute team. The way the young girls defended the score or the way Savita Punia, the goalie held the post was something beyond any accolades. Australia indeed got numerous penalty corners towards the end, but the absence of any class drag-flicker was felt during every corner and eventually each scoring effort was thwarted by the gritty Indian defense. And soon history was created as our girls reached the semifinal of the Olympics for the first time ever. And to a sports lover like me, this achievement is nothing less than a medal.  This will inspire a whole new generation for whom success in sports for India has often been synonymous with winning the 2011 Cricket World Cup. I can remember, from our growing years, the nationwide interest in hockey started diminishing as people started showing more and more interest in cricket especially after the 1983 World Cup victory. The interest was further fueled when India lifted the Benson & Hedges Trophy. Gradually as Indians became more and more inclined towards cricket, the performance graph of hockey started showing a downslide. And forget women’s hockey, their Adam counterparts even failed to make it to the semis in the past four decades. The nadir came when Indian men failed to qualify in the Olympics in 2008. The nation which was once known for its prowess in hockey in the eyes of the sports pundits, failed to take part in that sport in the Olympics! What could be a worse shame than this? For the girls though, failure to qualify in the Olympics was not something new. Before this year, they had the taste of qualification only in 1980 and in 2016. Even though their performance at the Asian level has been praiseworthy and they even impressed a number of times at events like the Commonwealth Games, the Asian tigresses were tamed easily by the hockey superpowers in the world at other major events.  But as luck would have it, or in better words hard work, determination and courage would have it, the ongoing edition of the sports extravaganza gifted India with double bonanza as both our men and women teams reached the semis, the men for the first time in the last four decades and their female counterparts for the first time ever.

The journey had begun in a very shaky and scratchy manner though. The girls were humbled by Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain consecutively in the most shameful manner. While they managed to score just two goals in the first three matches, they had already conceded eleven goals. The mystery in the script unfolded when they managed to secure a hard-earned victory against Ireland. This was followed by another struggling victory against South Africa. As the Irish women were defeated by Great Britain in the final match of the pool, by dint of luck, the eves reached the quarter final and were pitted against the mighty Aussies, three times Gold medalist in the event and currently ranked number two in the world. Even the most faithful supporter of the team had not imagined what surprise was lying in store. And finally, when the sound of the hooter declared the end of the match, I believe millions of Indians like me had their eyes moistened by emotions never experienced in life. Our girls are very much in the race to win a medal for us in hockey. But more importantly, they have managed to instill confidence among us that nothing is impossible. If the girls after being defeated in all three matches, could make comeback like the phoenix and can prove all the armchair critics wrong and can defeat teams like Ireland, South Africa or the unstoppable Aussies, it only proves that in sports or even in life anything can be achieved if you have the true vision, genuine appetite and pure cravings for it. The historic victory today may change the way games are perceived in this medal-starved nation. Throughout the years, we do not even show any interest in any sports and suddenly when the Olympics arrive, we start lambasting the failed athletes for not bringing glory to the nation. When someone grabs a medal, we start worshipping the person. But the pangs of the others in the field are left unattended by us. The sweat, the tears, the tragedies do not get due respect. Today our girls have at least changed the perception. They will face Argentina in the Semifinal now. And even if they are beaten, they will still have a chance to bring a medal. But right now, what they have given us is more than what we could have dreamt of, more than we could have craved for even in our wildest imagination. And no words of accolades would be enough to rightfully appreciate the endeavors of our girls. Perhaps. Mir Ranjan Negi must be the happiest person today. In Sjoerd Marijne, he must have found his own shades, own stories of redemption and hope after reaching the abyss of humiliation. Let’s not forget, it was under him Indian women had bagged the first-ever Gold at the Commonwealth Games nineteen years back, a story so soulfully portrayed on the silver screen by King Khan. For now, it’s Chak De Our Girls.

Also read

News Reporter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *