Tokyo: Veteran Indian hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh says that it is the duty of the experienced players to make the juniors aware of the magnitude of the task at the Olympics, and that it’s not enough to just represent the country.
Sreejesh, who was the India team captain during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, said on Thursday that, “It’s up to us (seniors) to motivate the young guys. Some of them may be happy by just thinking that they are playing for India.
“However, it’s the senior players’ duty to make them understand that it’s not enough and that playing in a major tournament is an opportunity to actually win a medal. We need to force the youngsters to dream, tell them that they are very good players and that they can do well here,” Sreejesh told AIFF.tv.
Sreejesh added that when he first made it to the Indian team, his seniors had told him to keep playing with full commitment, as a slump in performances quickly means that one finds himself playing at the state or club level again.
“When I got the India jersey for the first time, I remember my seniors telling me that I have got the jersey but I need to keep wearing it now. If I make mistakes, I would have to suffice with playing at club or state level. The India jersey carries a big responsibility with it and being a senior now, it’s our responsibility to put these things in the mind of the players,” Sreejesh said.
Sreejesh termed the Olympic Games as a ‘paradise’ and spoke about the powerful feeling that comes with representing the nation at the event.
“It’s like a festival. The entire world is watching. The best athletes, the biggest stars — all your role models are present. It is like paradise for any athlete.
“The Indian contingent usually stays together on one floor in the village and there are different floors for different countries. But, what’s interesting is that we are all sharing the same dining space. So, you can see a lot of the other top athletes having their meals there and you can see what they are eating. At the gym, you watch in wonder as you see the weights that some of these guys are lifting.
“It’s a dream. The top pros are always focused; they don’t mingle much with the others till they finish their event. For the first-timers, it’s exciting. Unfortunately this time, it will be a bit different because of COVID,” said Sreejesh.
Since making his international debut for India in 2006, Sreejesh has been an integral part of the Indian team and is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the sport.