Cheering Indian hockey players with equal gusto from sidelines

New Delhi

Ten Indian hockey enthusiasts including two from Mumbai who were to land in Tokyo on the opening day of the Olympics, will now have to watch hockey on television. All of them were going to watch and support the Indian hockey teams at any Olympics for the first time.

These 10 persons in the 30 to 65 age group from different Indian cities are members of the core group of the One Team One Dream (OTOD) and were looking forward to watching and cheering for the Indian men and women hockey teams. Following an announcement by the Japanese government that no spectators would be allowed at the Olympic Games, they abandoned their travel plans. They were to be joined by 11 other OTOD members and Persons of Indian Origin from Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

One Team One Dream is a group of passionate hockey lovers who follow the Indian national hockey team around the world. The OTOD was formed in 2010 after some hockey lovers met during the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games in India. Their dream is to see India win at the Olympics and win the World Cup again. The group is easily recognised at the hockey events with their white turbans and white head scarves.

Leo Anthony Devadoss, a banker turned coordinator of the group who once represented Karnataka State at the junior level, said while 18 OTOD members had booked in a private apartment in Shinagawa and made an advance payment of Rs2 lakh, their friends from Canada, Finland and Malaysia had made their own arrangements. Anthony has also volunteered as a coach at the Dhanraj-Ballal hockey academy. “Raja Namdhari, a sports goods dealer in Delhi is actually the driving forcing behind One Team One Dream. Our OTOD members were excited about meeting after a year and a half. We last met at FIH Pro League in Bhubaneshwar in January 2020. It is not just about the money we lost. We are worried about the opportunity we lost. We are confident the hockey men’s team will make it the victory stand and we hope the Indian women’s hockey team will make it to the quarterfinal. They have it in them to beat any team in the world. We are lucky the Mumbai based sole ticketing agent of the Tokyo Olympics has promised to reimburse a certain per centage of the ticket money which will be refunded by the Tokyo Olympic Committee. The apartment owner has been very understanding and he has agreed to refund us the amount. It is however a huge disappointment but it has been softened by the knowledge no spectators policy at the Games is in the interest of public health. We were also looking forward to buying tickets for boxing, wrestling and badminton.’’

Devadoss acknowleded help from Siegfred Aikman, the national coach of the Japanese men hockey team. “Iakman has been a good friend of OTOD. We met Aikman, designated as the FIH (International Hockey Federation) High Performance coach, at the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneshwar. He was guiding us regarding our tour to Tokyo. So was my friend’s mother, Dr Yashoda, a second generation Japanese paediatrician who runs a private clinic in Bengaluru. She was also to go to Tokyo to watch the games as many of her archer son, Rakshak’s friends were going but even she is not going now as there are no spectators.’’

Devadoss said the OTOD group is now planning to meet in Bengaluru from August 1 to 6. “We will miss the live action at the Oi hockey stadium would have been only three miles from Shinagawa city where we were to stay. We will now be watching the quarter finals, semi finals and finals of the men and women’s hockey team. We have arranged for a big screen to be put up just for our group. On August 4, we have arranged for a lunch and reached out to 17 Bengaluru based hockey Olympians. Of them, eight hockey Olympians including Arjun Halappa, Sabu Virkey, Poonacha, Bharat Chetri, Ashish Ballal, Nikin Thimaiyya V.R. Raghnunath and SK Uthappa have promised to join us. Hopefully, we will be able to persuade them to join us in cheering for the Indian women hockey team at the semi final match the same day.’’

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