against Britain tomorrow in Santiago. India has played in every men's olympic hockey tournament since 1928 (and won 8 of them) and in order to play in Beijing, India need to beat Britain tomorrow in the final of the 6 nation qualifying tournament from which only one team will play in the olympics. India lost only one league match, and that was to Britain a couple of days ago, a very rough match in which 3 players were reprimanded for bad behaviour, and India lost in in the dying moments when Rob Moore scored for Britain to give them a 3-2 win. (bringing back memories of that last minute goal we let in against Poland in Sydney (to make it 1-1), we were 1 minute 41 seconds away from our first Olympic semi final in 25 years.) That was only Britain's 10th win over India ever.
China, Korea and Pakistan, South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Australia have already qualified for the olympics. Belgium ? Korea ? and India is struggling ? This story goes back to the 2006 Doha Asian Games when for the first time ever India were ousted in the group stages due to a loss to China who are considered minnows in Hockey. India had won a medal in every previous edition of the Asian games, and apart from a Bronze in 1986, we won either gold or silver. That failure to qualify for the semis and win a medal at the Asian Games meant that India did not automatically qualify for the Olympics. And so here we are . . . Needing to beat Britain to get to the Olympics. and once upon a time Beating britain would have been no problem at all, Pakistan beat them 8-2 or something in the last olympic games, but they have a higher world ranking than us (they are 8th and we are 9th) and nothing can be said about the Indian Hockey team anymore. We lost the league game to them after all.
What happens to Indian Hockey if we dont qualify for the Olympics ? so much history, so much pride, and once upon a time so much glory went with the Indian team's exploits at the Olympics. The coverage in the Indian media (from what I could gauge over the internet) was desultory, and apart from one article on Indiatimes by the coach Joaquim Carvalho none of the articles went to the heart of the situation the Indian team finds itself in. There were no statistics anywhere, (I got a few numbers from a Pakistani newspaper, which sounded like it really wanted India to qualify, if only for the sake of tradition) no analysis, no recoup of the Indian team's recent results, no analysis of the system for qualification of the olympics (I had to go to the olympics website to check which teams had already qualified) nothing. The fate of Indian Hockey in the near future hangs in the balance, generations of pride and a splendid record hangs in the balance and the country refuses to notice ?
Its a shame. Shame on all those who call themselves sports fans and sports journalists in India and shame on the Indian public which obediently drinks whatever rot the BCCI dishes out and refuses to look around for itself - there is greatness and pride in all sport and very very few sporting teams in history have provided as much drama, brilliance, glory, and now tragedy as the Indian Men's Hockey Team.
If I could go back in time and choose a sport again, I'd choose to play Hockey.