Potchefstroom (South Africa): Carrying the mantle of Olympic bronze medallists has added ‘some pressure’ as India begin their campaign in the 2021-22 FIH Pro League Hockey with a match against France here Tuesday. Then the very next day, the Manpreet Singh-led side will face hosts South Africa. The tournament will be the Indian team’s first competitive assignment of the year.
Chief coach Graham Reid was asked Monday whether the Olympic bronze medallist tag adds any pressure on his wards. “Realistically, yes, it does add some pressure. However, I don’t think it is more than the pressure we put on ourselves to perform well,” Reid said.
“Whenever a side does well at a big event like the Olympics, I think other teams take note of that and there is a target on you. It does add extra pressure, but I think the good part about that is that we tend to play our best when we are in such situations,” Reid added.
World No.3 India will fancy their chances against both opponents. India haven’t played World No. 13 France since winning the world league 2015 semifinals.
Reid was asked how the team have settled in South Africa ahead of the upcoming matches. “It’s great to be in South Africa. We haven’t often had the chance to play here at such a high level of competition, so we view this as a great opportunity,” Reid informed.
“All the boys understand how difficult it is going to be against these teams here but we are very keen to get the New Year off to a positive start,” he added.
India will once again play France February 12 before concluding the tour with the second match against South Africa February 13.
Reid also dwelt on the distinct format of competition in the FIH Hockey Pro League. “There is a different dynamic in this tournament because you get some time between two matches against the same team, so it is a bit like a multi-nations tournament in some ways. It is an interesting format which adds a different aspect for teams when they are preparing for their opponents,” Reid pointed out.
Captain Manpreet echoed the coach’s sentiments ahead of the game against France. He said that the atmosphere in the team’s dressing room is one of excitement.
“The players are excited to get back on the field since the Asian Champions Trophy towards the end of last year. We want to play well and settle into a good rhythm in the beginning of this year, because 2022 is a big year for us with the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games lined up,” said Manpreet.