It’s been a journey of self-realisation for the boys: Sreejesh

Indian men’s hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh gave an insight into the team’s preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, saying its been almost two years since the groundwork began in Bengaluru and that the time spent at the national camp during lockdown has been “a journey of self-realisation for the boys”.

Speaking to Indian women’s football team custodian Aditi Chauhan on AIFF TV on Sunday, Sreejesh said, “It (the preparation) started two years back after the World Cup in Odisha. We started our campaign for the Olympics. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we got an extra year, so the preparation is a bit different this time.

“Generally we travel a lot, and play a lot of practice matches. We do a lot of acclimatisation. But this time, we have been camping in Bengaluru for past one and a half years. We have had hardly any time to meet our families,” said Sreejesh.

“We have been training hard, and we’ve been working on different strategies, analysing our opponents as well.”

The men’s hockey team, currently ranked fourth in the world, has been drawn in Pool A alongside hosts Japan, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Spain. Sreejesh said the preparations for the Olympics this time “has been more of a journey of self-realisation for the boys”.

“Whenever any of the teams have played any match, we have been watching. We’ve also watched our own videos and tried to figure out our strengths and weaknesses. These one and a half years have been a lot about self-realisation, rather than worrying about others,” he said.

The Indian women’s hockey team, on the other hand, has also been drawn in Pool A, and are ranked 10th on the FIH world rankings. Sreejesh believes that the there’s a good atmosphere in the women’s team, and that they can prove to the world that they are amongst the best.

“They (the women’s hockey team) are experienced enough. I believe they carry a good atmosphere wherever they go, and they will prove that they are one of the best teams,” he said. “They have been playing well, and if they continue that in the Olympics they can win.”

While the Olympics are a celebration of various sporting disciplines, the athletes also tend to feel the pressure once they reach the big stage.

“It can be tricky, once you get to the Olympics. It’s an absolute pressure-cooker situation. You always go into the Olympics with a lot of expectations — expectations from fans and expectations from your family. Especially your family, because they want their kid to win something over there. The thing is, the ones who do well on the day, are the ones who turn out to be the champions,” he added.