Exclusive: Great moment for the country: Olympic medallist MP Ganesh on India winning bronze at Tokyo Olympics
As India were down by 3-1 against Germany, the 1972 Olympian MP Ganesh watching the match at his farmhouse in Coorg thought the team would lose but now feels proud and says the team deserved to be in the final. He says the management should think on the lines of BCCI and ensure post retirement benefits to players.
After Indian men's hockey team put up a disappointing show against Australia at the beginning of the tournament at the Tokyo Olympics, the legends and former Olympians thought that the team may exit soon but now after their performance against Germany, they feel the team has the potential to be in the finals.
Talking exclusively to Asianet Newsable, former Olympian and centre forward expert and extreme right field hockey player MP Ganesh said that the team should carry forward their performance and future teams should win gold medals.
He said he feels proud about the current team and expects the federation to give them sufficient funds. Highlighting that the BCCI is more professional and treats its players well, Ganesh also demanded similar treatment to hockey players.
Aged 75, Ganesh recalled about Indian's performance in 1972 in Munich and 1980 in Moscow. Ganesh was part of the team that won bronze in 1972 and said that Mukhbain Singh who topped with 9 goals could not score a single goal from 18 penalty corners that India got and had to settle for bronze against Pakistan. His teammate Govinda also a fellow native, scored the lone goal for the team then.
In 1980, he was assistant coach of the then Olympic gold winning team. He said that there was no provision to send an assistant coach with the team and only one coach was sent. In the tournament, the strongest teams at that time were India, Russia and Spain; and India beat both to claim the first place.
He now pitches for development of the federation on the lines of BCCI to ensure the players get better exposure and also enjoy a better retirement life. Ganesh also expressed happiness for the women's team playing semifinals saying that this has happened for the first time in 76 years after India's independence.
He felt that the bronze medal at the Olympics will encourage young players and parents to motivate them to play hockey more.
We bring you excerpts from an exclusive interview with MP Ganesh, the Bronze medallist of 1972 Munich Olympics:
Q: How does it feel about India winning bronze at the Olympic games after 41 years?
Ganesh: It's a very very great moment for the whole country and for the team, those who played hockey and brought laurels to the country, the game of hockey and for future children those who want to play hockey. It's a great moment! We were without a medal for the last 41 years in the game of hockey and these boys, coaches, the federation, government, Sports Authority Of India and the players and their families have sacrificed a lot and encouraged these boys to come up to this level. We should feel very proud about this game. We should see that it continues in the coming Olympic games and world cup tournaments and other events too.
Q: India's start was not impressive and losing against Australia with 7-1 was demotivating. Did you expect the team to bounce back?
Ganesh: We all had great hopes on this team. But when they beat New Zealand (3-2) the doubts started to come in the minds of former players and the very next match when we lost to Australia by 7-1, we started feeling that this team won't be able to do anything but they regrouped and played to the expectation of the nation. Played throughout. In fact, the standard that Indian hockey has shown, they deserve to be in the finals but again in the semi-finals we could not show the same performance. At least today for a bronze, to climb on the podium they have done very well. We were losing 3-1, we all thought the team wouldn't be able to win. The Germans are known for their defensive game and even I had a doubt but, with God's grace the boys regrouped and played very well and won the bronze medal for our country. I wish this continues and in the future, the team should see that they win a gold medal.
Q: India clinched gold in 1980 and bronze in 1972 at the Olympics. Can you recall these moments?
Ganesh: In the 1972 Olympics, our team was the best. Our team lost to Pakistan after getting 18 penalty corners. 18 penalty corners is a huge performance (opportunity). Top scorer of the tournament could not convert even one (goal) out of 18 and that's how we lost and had to settle for the bronze medal when Govinda scored a goal. Govinda is from my native (Coorg). In 1980, Somaiyya (Coorg native) was in the team. I was the assistant coach of the team. I could not go with the team as the Indian government had sent only one coach. They played and got the gold (beat Spain by 4-3). That was the last gold medal the country got 41 years ago (in hockey).
Russia and Spain were there and many teams had pulled out of the tournament then. The best teams to be in the tournament were India, Russia and Spain. We beat both teams. We beat Russia in the semi-finals and Spain in the finals.
Q: What impact will the Tokyo Olympics 2020 medal have on Indian hockey?
Ganesh: It is a big boost for Indian hockey and children should pick up hockey sticks and come to streets, play wherever small grounds are available. When we were playing hockey, cricket was also there but in fact, we were better known than cricket players. But see how they (BCCI) built the India team. They have become professionals in management. We should also maintain the same thing and see that these players are benefited and it should attract all youngsters to pick up hockey.
Ultimately it is two square meals the children and parents expect in whatever they do. Whether they are studious, whether they become engineers, doctors.... by playing hockey, what will we get? We have to plan properly, the federation should see that players who represent India should get a good living once they retire.
Q: Where should we improve for the betterment of the game?
Ganesh: The organization should run the sport and not any individual. This is what happened throughout our careers. The president or secretary would run the show. The office and committee should run the hockey game. There should be proper administration. Everything should be visible (transparent) and they should run it. Today in cricket, even Ranji Trophy players are also getting enough financial help, like that we should also get. Today, whoever wins (hockey players) should get sufficient funds. This will help parents encourage their children.
Cricket has done a wonderful job. The management has given a professional touch. Cricketers were also like us when we were playing. We used to get 10$ a day for playing a game and cricketers were getting Rs 250 for a five-day test match. See how they built their kingdom. Hockey (management) should also do that.
Q: What is your take on Indian women's hockey team?
Ganesh: Women's hockey, we feel proud. For the first time they have entered the semifinals in the last 76 years after Independence. This is the first time they have come to the semifinals. Actually, their ranking was 6 to 8 but now they have come to 4th place. It is a great achievement. I must congratulate the selectors, the coaches, players and their parents who encouraged and government schemes that the government implemented have given good results.
Q: Sadly, we didn't have a single player from Karnataka, to be precise from Coorg in the national team. What is your take?
Ganesh: We must rethink the way we are functioning. The associations, both at Bengaluru and Kodagu and all over Karnataka. We must improve the administration and see that the children are motivated. The government is having a good scheme. Sports hostel is running, a sports school is running in Karnataka. The officers should be very very positive and also strict and run the schemes properly. Kodagu is just like Punjab (in showing interest in hockey). Kodagu and Punjab contributed a lot for Indian hockey, now not a single person (in the team). We have to think about rebuilding our hockey particularly in Kodagu.