FIH Hockey Men’s Hockey World Cup | Don't feel overburdened, says 1975 winning captain Ajit Pal Singh

FIH Hockey Men’s Hockey World Cup | Don't feel overburdened, says 1975 winning captain Ajit Pal Singh

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With less than one month 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 with each passing day, and rightly so.

With the World Cup only a few days away, captain of the Gold winning 1975 Men’s World Cup team, a member of three medal-winning World Cup squads, and a double Olympic medallist, the legendary Ajit Pal Singh recalled his memories from the years gone by.     

Close to half a century ago, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team were crowned champions when they won the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur under the able leadership of Ajit Pal Singh. The legendary player, who is the last Indian Men’s Hockey Team Captain to have lifted the coveted trophy, remembers the successful campaign quite well and said that the team was like a family, on and off the pitch.  

“Those were some of the good old days, I still remember, and the victory was really fantastic. All the team members really gave their best in the 1975 World Cup. Those memories from 47 years ago are still very much there in my mind and everybody else’s as well. We had a great team, and we lived like a family. We would discuss our shortcomings and our opponents in detail, and we were always all together, on and off the field. All the hockey lovers in the country were very happy that once again we became world champions,” the former India Captain said.  

According to Ajit Pal Singh, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team in 1973 was among the fittest, while the squad through that decade, he believes was one of the best at the time. Through that era, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team won three World Cup medals, a Bronze in 1971, a Silver in 1973, and a Gold in 1975.  

Rolling the clock back, he said, “If I speak honestly the 1973 side was the fittest ever Indian side which has taken part in the International Hockey Championship. The team was really super fit. Even the Europeans and other teams were really astonished to see us. Going for 45 minutes to one hour for warming up and then to play the match. It was a very good team also. In fact, I would be very honest to say that that team was, maybe, slightly better than the 1975 World Cup team.”  

The former Captain narrated that the Indian Men’s Hockey Team were over the moon after defeating Pakistan, a bitter rival, in the Final in 1975, but also added that the Semi-Final against hosts Malaysia was probably the toughest outing for the team.  

“The Semi-Final against Malaysia was very tough for us. We were playing in Kuala Lumpur and the majority of the crowd was Malaysian. There was support for India from the Indian fans too. At one point, we were down 1-2 in the game, and that’s when we brought in Aslam Sher Khan in place of Michael Kindo. And that did the trick somehow, and Aslam Sher Khan equalised and then Harcharan Singh scored the winner in extra time. That had been a very difficult and demanding match for us. And if we look at the Final, India really controlled the game very well, and we were lucky that we won the World Cup. After the final whistle, we felt like we were flying and we got great receptions all over the country. I still feel very happy about the memories from 1975, and winning against Pakistan in the World Cup Final was also remarkable,” he recounted. 

“I think the 1975 World Cup Final is one of the best games I ever played, even though there were some incredible games in the 1973 World Cup too.” 

The former Indian Captain, like many who are part of the hockey family, was delighted when the Indian Men’s Hockey Team bagged a historic Bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Ajit Pal Singh, who is one of Indian hockey’s most decorated players, believes that the current Indian Men’s Hockey Team can definitely repeat the heroics of 1975. However, he also noted that Australia is likely to be India’s biggest hurdle in its quest for glory.  

“The Indian Men’s Hockey Team should consider every single game as extremely important. Yes, Australia is a difficult team, but they must play to their full potential. Winning or losing is a part of the game, but you do your best at all times. And India can do it if they play well and together as a unit. And I wish they can do it because many years have passed since we have touched the World Cup trophy.”  

As a word of advice for Harmanpreet Singh and co, the former Captain, who won Bronze medals in the 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympic Games, said that the team should not feel overburdened.  

“Don’t be overburdened. Don’t be pressurised and play simple hockey. We have to be tight in the defense also. I am quite sure the players and coaches know these things and are planning accordingly. Don't lose your confidence. You can do it and I'm sure the team will do well,” he signed off.     

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