Indore: “This is the time we should celebrate and encash on this euphoria. We can use this moment for the benefit for hockey,” says Negi. “If we let traumatic history repeat itself from 1998, we’re bound to lose the chance of another win for decades again.”
What happened in 1998?
The last Asian Games of the 20the Century were held in Bangkok in 1998 and they provided a golden moment for Indian hockey. It was a tale of two tournaments in 1998. In May 1998, India had floundered at the 9th World Cup in Utrecht, the Netherlands, finishing a dismal ninth. “It was when I was coaching the team too,” says Negi.
Sadly, the legacy of this 1998 Asian Games gold medal triumph did not last long. After the success in Bangkok, Dhanraj Pillay and some senior players requested the IHF for monetary incentives and even asked for graded payment for playing international matches for India. The request for money and graded payment was seen as the players’ revolt. Pillay and several other members of the victorious 1998 squad were suspended for the test series vs Pakistan. “We lost the players and lost the Olympics for following decades,” rues Negi.
What to do to save the moment and be ready for next Olympics?
Organise 15-20 exhibition matches between the Indian Olympic Team and Rest of India, or the MP team, or the particular state team where the matches are going to be held… reaching out to every part of the country and encashing on this win
Reach out to the hockey players and organise matches with local teams. Ranchi, Raipur, Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar and Bhopal are the major centres for hockey players
A procession of very high magnitude should be organised to celebrate the win and the players must be given respect as never before