FIH Hockey Men's World Cup | Coach Graham Reid picks India in top three
With only a few weeks until the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela begins, Hockey India's Favourite World Cup Memory Series concludes with Chief Coach of the Indian Men's Hockey Team Graham Reid getting candid about his experience at the 1990 Hockey World Cup held in Lahore.
Australia had topped their pool with victories over Argentina, France, the Soviet Union, India, and even the Netherlands, who went on to win the tournament by defeating hosts Pakistan in an epic World Cup Final in 1990.
"It was really special to play in Lahore. The hockey stadium was incredible, it was quite like Bhubaneswar and to see it full was something special. My memory (of that World Cup) is more from the Final day when we played the Bronze medal match against West Germany and Pakistan played the Final against the Netherlands. The Stadium was totally chokers, full of people everywhere," recalled Reid as he got nostalgic.
"People had climbed up the peripheral walls and on top of the roofs. In the Semi-Finals, we played Pakistan and they scored in the first 4-5 mins of the match and the crowd just erupted. It was quite a daunting task to play them as the home team. Whenever Shahbaz (Ahmed) got the ball and ran down the pitch, the crowd would go ballistic. As a foreign team playing in that atmosphere, it was quite an amazing experience," Reid continued.
He drew comparisons on handling the pressure due to the sheer magnitude of the event, having been a part of this mega quadrennial event as a Coach since 2010. Reid described how the Australian team prepared for the 1990 World Cup with the expectation of raucous spectators in mind, drawing a parallel to the atmosphere that can be expected in Rourkela and Bhubaneswar this January, where tickets for India matches sold out within the first 24 hours of going on sale.
"In the lead-up, we played smaller games, and played silently - we were not allowed to talk. A recording of the crowd on loudspeakers would play in the background and we learned not to rely on calling out but had to get used to turning around and looking. We had to learn to blanket out the sound. And this time in Odisha, it will be just as important for us to be prepared for the crowd," he said.
Another fond memory for Reid was playing against Indian great Jagbir Singh during that prestigious event in 1990 and scoring a goal against India made it extra special for him. "I remember playing against India and playing against Jagbir. When we squared off at the beginning, I remember wishing him. We shared a good rapport. I happened to score a goal in that game and it was a highlight for me because scoring goals when you are playing as an inside forward in those days wasn't as prolific as it is today," he remarked candidly.
Reid's record of achievements includes playing for Australia in the 1990 World Cup and being part of the coaching staff for his home team in 2010 and 2014 where they lifted the World Cup trophy and he was also part of the Silver Medal-winning Netherlands coaching staff in the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar. One thing that he is extremely familiar with from his past experiences at this prestigious event is that players tend to get caught up in the moment - whether it is good or bad, his advice is for them to move on quickly.
He said, "You sort of get caught up in the moment when you play an event of this magnitude. It could get quite daunting when you lose the ball, or concede a goal. It is important to develop 'the next thing' mentality. You can't change what happened so you just move on to the next task at hand, stay focused on what's to be done."
Asked who he would pick as top contenders in the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, Reid admitted to the highly competitive nature of the tournament with top eight teams who could beat anyone on a given day.
"It is so difficult to pick a team. If I think about it today, I could pick Australia, Belgium and India; and tomorrow I could come back with Netherlands, Germany and India. Of course, I would put India in the top three because if we play well, we have a good opportunity to get there. Any of these top eight can win this World Cup. It is both daunting and exciting at the same time," stated Reid as he signed off.