Mumbai: In terms of the overall impact on the team, Simranjeet Singh entry in the Indian men’s hockey team at the Tokyo Olympic Games was like that of Italians Paolo Rossi, in the 1982 World Cup, and Salvatore Schillaci, in the 1990 edition of footballs biggest tournament.
Simranjeet came into the squad as a reserve player and ended up becoming the central character as he scored two goals against Germany that helped India win the bronze medal in Tokyo Olympics Thursday.
Simranjeet was not in the original squad of 16 that coach Graham Reid had announced in June but was roped in as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to expand the squad and allow two reserve players to become part of the contingent.
“I thought that I would be in the team when the original squad was picked, but unfortunately I was not picked. So, just like any other player, I felt bad. But the same night I got a message from the coach saying ‘I know not selected and it would be frustrating for you’. I replied to the coach, saying ‘it doesn’t matter whether I was selected or not, what matters more is where we stand in the Olympics’,” said Simranjeet on Thursday from Tokyo during a virtual press conference organised by Hockey India.
Simranjeet made the most of his opportunities with a stellar role in the match against Spain. He revitalised the forward line and with his incisive runs, helped open up the rival defence.
So, when he got his chance to play, Simranjeet thought he would make the most of it and prove his worth to everyone.
“Varun Kumar and I were the reserve players and when IOC’s decision came [allowing reserve players ito the squad], we both felt lucky. I was happy that the coach gave me the chance and I could prove myself, prove that I was part of the team and deserved to be there. Whatever chances I got, I had to give my best and I only tried that,” said Simranjeet Singh.
Coach Graham Reid refused to consider his availability as a stroke of luck but added that one has to grab the chances that come their way.
“We called upon him today, we have to share the load as you have seen, the heat has played a very significant role in our games, and because we play at such a high tempo that it was pretty strategic to be moving the players around and rest them and playing. The great thing about having Simran today was that he showed that my faith in him (was not misplaced). I asked him for three goals and he only provided two and I am happy with that,” said Reid.
Whichever way one looks at it, Simranjeet had come to Tokyo for a side role but ended up becoming the central character — one of the stars of the tournament for India.