With less than 40 days to go for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar - Rourkela 2023, the anticipation to witness the world’s best hockey players at one of the world’s most preferred hockey destinations – Odisha, is only increasing by each passing day.
While the Indian team carries out their preparations to end the medal drought in the prestigious event, it’s time for hockey fans to relive the memories from India’s historic World Cup campaigns.
Winner of the bronze and silver medal at the 1986 and 1990 Asian Games, respectively, and a member of the Indian team that played the 1990 World Cup in Pakistan, the legendary Jagbir Singh recalls his memories from the years gone by.
A centre forward par excellence during his playing days, Jagbir is one of Indian hockey’s most recognised faces and voices. Also considered to be one of the most accomplished commentators in the game, the former India player was at a loss for words when he recalled his first call-up to the national team.
“Well, it’s a feeling which cannot be really defined in a few words. I can only say that it was a proud moment for me when I was selected and the first time I was given the Indian jersey. I couldn’t sleep the whole night believing that yes, I’m part of the national team now,” Singh said.
A veteran of many an intense battle in the Indian jersey, Singh went on to say that during his playing days, being part of the major tournaments was akin to a dream come true, mostly because the number of competitions were fewer as compared to the modern game. At the 1990 World Cup in Lahore, Pakistan, Singh was India’s joint top scorer along with Jude Felix Sebastian with three goals to his name.
“India, since the 1975 World Cup had not done very well, so everybody wanted to give their best performance whichever way possible. The opportunities were also very limited, so the only thing we were all looking at was the Asian Games. Even the Commonwealth Games was not there, so Asian Games, Olympics and World Cup. These were the three major tournaments. So, we wanted to do all we could,” Singh said.
Talking about how the sport of hockey is very much a part of the DNA, Singh explained that the stories from the 1970s and earlier served as great inspiration.
“With over a billion people in the country, and when your names are being called among the 16, that too for the World Cup, it’s an amazing feeling. We always wanted to be part of the World Cup team because we had seen the World Cup heroes. We grew up watching Ajit Pal Singh, BP Govinda, Ashok Kumar and these were the names we had as icons. In fact, we started playing hockey after watching these icons. The 1975 World Cup was the peak moment for Indian hockey. We saw Ajit Pal Singh with the trophy and dreamt of replicating it.”
‘Believe in yourselves’
A veteran of two Olympic Games, Singh is quite impressed with the Indian team’s performances in the recent past. He believes that the squad has the ability to do well in the coming years as well.
Ahead of the Odisha Hockey World Cup, he has only one simple message for the team.
“Just believe in yourself, especially when playing against Australia. This is the one message I would like to give them. I want the team to believe in themselves. They have got the best of skills. They got the best of potential,” he said.
“If they score three, you can score four, just believe in yourself, and I expect them to do exactly that and I hope they do well,” he signed off.