Kolkata: Indian hockey has never had so good as both their men and women’s nominees made a clean sweep of the awards of FIH (Federation of International Hockey), world governing body of the sport, for 2020-21 by winning in all eight categories.
Harmanpreet Singh (FIH Player of the Year, Men), Gurjit Kaur (FIH Player of the Year, Women), Savita (FIH Goalkeeper of the Year, Women), PR Sreejesh (FIH Goalkeeper of the Year, Men), Sharmila Devi (FIH Rising Star of the Year, Women) and Vivek Prasad (FIH Rising Star of the Year, Men) concurred in a virtual press conference on Thursday that the awards were an outcome of a collective effort and it also brings with them greater expectations for the future.
The Tokyo Olympics 2020, where India returned their best-ever haul of seven medals, Indian men’s hockey team ended their 41-year drought while the women’s team finished fourth after a stirring show. The teams will have a busy 2022 with both Asian Games and Commonwealth Games scheduled next year.
Graham Reid, chief coach of men’s team and Sjoerd Marijne, his counterpart with the women’s team before he stepped down after the Games, also garnered the highest number of votes in their respective categories.
Harmanpreet Singh, FIH Player of the Year, said during the media interaction: “It is everyone’s support, including the coaching staff, who have been showing faith in me since day one, and I think that’s what matters to me more. I am happy that have I won this award, but it is only because of the support of my team.”
Gurjit Kaur, who won the best player award in women’s category, said: “It was a big thing for me to get nominated for this prestigious award alongside the star players from different parts of the world, and having won this prestigious award, it feels like a dream-come-true for me. I really can’t believe that I’ve won the Player of the Year Award. I reckon it’s all because of the support that I’ve received from my teammates and coaches.”
It’s nice to be recognised and I think winning a medal after 41 years probably awakens a lot of people to follow hockey again. It’s fantastic to get such a tremendous response here in the country since we have been back from Tokyo
PR Sreejesh, the rock under Indian men’s team bar who won the best goalkeeper, said: “Wherever we go for a tournament, there are a lot of expectations from us. Even in the previous Olympics, people had expectations that Indian hockey should win a medal and now we have finally proved it, which I think gives us more responsibility to keep that rhythm going. As we are looking forward to the 2024 Olympic Games, I think all these accolades and Olympic medal gives us more responsibility to take tournaments seriously and work hard to win more medals for our country.”
Reid, the Australian chief coach who won the FIH Coach of the Year, Men’s team, said: “It’s a great honour and these individual awards are a reflection of a lot of work which has been done by a lot of people in our group for the last two years. It’s nice to be recognised and I think winning a medal after 41 years probably awakens a lot of people to follow hockey again. It’s fantastic to get such a tremendous response here in the country since we have been back from Tokyo.”