New Delhi: Lack of training is an obvious concern but India’s hockey players are also feeling homesick. They informed about their plight to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju. The sports minister, assured them of a ‘controlled’ resumption of practice soon in an online interaction Thursday.
Rijiju reasons with players
Rijiju reiterated on-field training will resume once the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is formulated by a six-member committee of SAI. The minister gave a patient hearing to the players and took note of feedback during the online meeting. It was attended by 34 men and 24 women hockey players.
“The SOP is being drawn up and now we have the inputs from coaches and hockey players. We will resume practice soon but in a controlled manner,” Rijiju said in a press release later.
Both the Indian men and women’s hockey teams have been at the SAI South Centre in Bangalore. They have been there since the start of the coronavirus-forced lockdown March 25.
“I assure we will extend all support to get our athletes back on the ground to train, but we must be careful. We cannot afford to risk the health of even one athlete. That will jeopordise the entire training plan,” the sports minister said.
“We must accept that in the post COVID era, sports will not be played in the same way. We will have to adjust to the changes and move forward,” added Rijiju.
Players want to train
The Indian men’s and women’s players told the minister that resumption of on-field training in small groups is necessary. It will give them an upper-hand over other top nations as they gear up for Olympics next year.
This is what captains said
“If we are able to start training on basic and specialised skills in small batches and work it will help. We can work on other techniques like penalty corners. It will help the teams to make a start towards Olympic preparations,” suggested men’s team captain Manpreet Singh.
Women’s team skipper Rani Rampal said fitness wise they are in good shape. However, they want to get back on the field to build stamina and remain focused on the Tokyo Olympics. We are safer here than we would be even at home. I feel we can start training while following protocols of health and social distancing,” Rampal said.
Former skipper and goalkeeper of the men’s team PR Sreejesh also took part in the discussions. “It is important for us to be in top mental shape. If we start training it can help us refresh our minds and handle homesickness. Since there will be no events in the next few months, staying focused on the game will be tough unless we start to train,” said Sreejesh.
The meeting was attended by sports secretary Ravi Mital, SAI director general Sandip Pradhan. Among other attendees were Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra and Hockey India president Md Mushtaque Ahmad.