The 38-year-old former goalkeeper shared his experience of the London Olympics.
Former captain of the Indian hockey team Bharat Chetri considers his time with the national team to be the most cherished moment of his life. He said that his dedication level always pushed him to give 110% on the field.
Bharat Chetri remarked, “The first time I had the opportunity to become an Olympian was at the 2012 London Olympics, where I felt we had a very decent team with the likes of VR Raghunath, Shivendra Singh and Sandeep Singh in our ranks. However, I would call it an opportunity missed because we would always make a comeback in our matches early on but then failed to capitalise on our chances. But I don’t call it a bad tournament also because I felt as a nation, we ended up learning a lot from those Games.”
However, failing to win a medal doesn’t bother Bharat Chetri. He feels as a nation the learning opportunities from the mega event was special. He said, “We were obviously behind a lot of teams in terms of fitness and our style of play, but I think what we have always had was the passion to play at the highest level. As a fan of hockey, and as a former player too, it gives me immense joy and satisfaction to see the current state of our Men’s and Women’s teams.”
“We have the best players in the world, and in my opinion, both the teams are quite similar in their composition – given we have both Savita and PR Sreejesh as our experienced Goalkeepers, and then a steady defence ahead of them.”
The Bengali shot-stopper feels the current Indian team is blessed with some world-class talents and it has a proper blend of youth and experience under one camp. In terms of fitness, style of play and coordination, the current squad stands superior to the previous ones he has played along with.
Bharat Chetri stated, “When I had seen their coordination on and off the field, it makes me feel so happy because somehow I felt that this level of coordination was something that was lacking in our teams of the past which perhaps was one of the reasons we have been unable to perform exceptionally on occasions. I think we always ended up lacking that authority and edge in big matches.”
He gives credit to the hard work of coaches and players for the considerable development that has been shown by them in the quality. He also praises Hockey India for providing all possible opportunities and infrastructural facilities and admits the fandom towards the game has also risen significantly through many tournaments.
“I think as a young player, when you see the kind of importance that a National Team gets from its fans and the federation as well, it is just very motivating. As a former athlete, I can tell you that it means a lot and is always added motivation for the players,” said Chetri.
He mentioned that if he were younger, he would have definitely wished to win medals with the national team. Now as he has gone past his prime days, he sees himself as a fan of the game who simply wants all the youngsters wearing blue to climb the peak of glory.
“It is not just a dream, it is a belief, which I have seen in our current players also during the times that I have spent with them as the Goalkeeping or Assistant Coach. I think the talent that we have in our ranks, along with the top fitness levels, we really have a good chance to perform at our best under the guidance of both the respective Chief Coaches,” he concluded.