Chandigarh: Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr today said his one last dream is to see eight-time champions India win another Olympic gold in the sport. Balbir Sr said he has serious hopes from the PR Sreejesh-led Indian men’s hockey team at Rio Olympics. “I have strong hope that we will do well this time and win a medal. My last desire in my remaining lifetime is to see Indian hockey team win an Olympic gold medal,” the 92-year-old veteran said.
Balbir Sr, who is probably India’s oldest living Olympian, spoke words of encouragement not just for the country’s hockey team, but wished good luck to all Rio-bound Indian athletes.
“Work hard, aim high, think positive, the spot at the top is always vacant. It’s meant for the brave, those who deserve to reach there. When I was playing as captain, I used to say such things and even as chief coach and manager (of Indian hockey team), I used to say that we have go to win.
“I have believed in this philosophy throughout my life. At no stage we can negative thoughts to cross our minds. We have to give our best and aim for win,” he asserted. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently exuded confidence that the Indian contingent would put up a grand show at Rio Olympics.
“Prime Minister Modi has exuded confidence that the Indian contingent would put up a grand show,” said Balbir Sr, who was a member of three Olympic gold medal winning teams in London (1948), Helsinki (1952), and Melbourne (1956 as captain).
Asked if the current Indian hockey team has the mettle to bring back the elusive gold after a long hiatus, Balbir Sr said, “The team has been preparing hard. I would tell them go all out, go for the win. The present hockey captain (Sreejesh) has also shown a lot of promise.” “I will tell the team to treat every match as a final and play with that mindset,” he said.
He, however, advised the team to work on their finishing and also said that while playing an attacking game they must not let their guard down. “Our game should be a balanced one, while we have to play an attacking game, our defence should also not lag,” he said.
Balbir Sr refused to pin his hopes on any particular player, saying hockey is a team game. “During my playing days, then as coach and manager also, I never used to point out any one individual. For me entire team, all 11 players and extras also, are representing the country. Till the game is going on, all attention, all focus should be on winning,” he said.
Notably, 2016 is the diamond jubilee year of the 1956 Olympics, where independent India completed a hat-trick of Olympic gold medals.
The Indian hockey team had set an unmatched record of being the only side to win an Olympic gold without conceding a single goal in any of the matches. The tournament score of Indian team was an astonishing 38-0.
Besides being a player par excellence, Balbir Sr was the manager and chief coach of the Indian team at the 1975 World Cup, which India won, and the 1971 World Cup, where India settled for a bronze medal. During the London Olympics in 2012, Balbir Sr was honoured in the Olympic Museum exhibition, “The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games” held at the Royal Opera House.