Celebratory scenes were witnessed across Punjab and Haryana on Thursday after Indian men’s hockey team rewrote history by claiming an Olympic medal after 41 years, with families of players saying they made the country proud. A resolute Indian team defeated a plucky Germany 5-4 to win the bronze in an edge-of-the-seat play-off match in the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
The eight-time former gold-winners, who battled a heartbreaking slump in the last four decades, made the resurgence of the last couple of years count in the best way possible with an Olympic medal. Not just the families of the players, common people, especially youngsters, celebrated India’s bronze medal win.
“He (Manpreet) telephoned her early in the morning and told me that the team will win a medal,” captain Manpreet Singh’s mother Manjit Kaur, who turned emotional after watching the match on television, told reporters at her house in Jalandhar. She recalled the days of Manpreet’s struggle and said the hard work which he put in all these years has paid off.
Families of other players spoke to them after the match on video phone call and congratulated them. Many did Bhangra’ dance while some danced on the beats of ‘Chake De! India’ Hindi film. Sweets were also distributed as streams of guests turned up since morning at the residences of the players. At the homes of players Surender Kumar in Kurukshetra and Sumit in Sonipat, there were also scenes of celebration.
Surender’s mother made a video phone call to her son and turned emotional while congratulating him. Gurjant Singh and Shamsher’s families in Amritsar district were in a jubilant mood after the team won a bronze.
Another player Rupinder Pal Singh’s mother said they were a bit dejected after the team lost to Belgium in the semifinals, but happy after the win against Germany to clinch the bronze. Rupinder’s father said the entire Faridkot (in Punjab) is waiting to welcome him.
Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi lauded the team for its stupendous performance. “The entire team played really well. Winning a medal after so many years means a lot, it’s a great thing and we are proud of that, Sodhi said.
Haryana Sports Minister Sandeep Singh, a former captain, said the team deserves all the credit. “Being a hockey player, I know they gave more than 100 per cent today. I would say the future of Indian hockey is bright, Singh said.
Former India player Gagan Ajit Singh said the win will come as a big boost for the Indian hockey. He said with only three years left for the next Olympics, the team must start preparing early.