Triumph and Trauma of a Coach
M. K. Kaushik with K. Arumugam
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|Ballal and Dhanraj were the most
sought after by the media. The duo just poured out their
emotions that night. They went hammer and tongs at the
manner in which the IHF ran the game. What controlled them was their heart,
not their brain.
Cameramen had to wait nearly 45 minutes for a team photo. In between, we took a victory lap around the stadium holding the Indian tricolour, amidst thunderous applause.
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veryone of us started crying, I don't recollect who started crying first. We all became emotional, but none to the level of Dhanraj. Tears kept rolling down his cheeks. He had become almost hysteric.
Well wishers, cameramen, journalists, television crew, officials - all jostled to reach us. A section of the crowd jumped over the fence and started dancing the bhangra to the tune of ethnic numbers. It was an all round occasion of joy. An occasion that comes once in a lifetime.
IHF secretary Jyothikumaran was the first official to reach us. He hugged everyone once, twice, thrice, maybe many more times. He was visibly excited. K. P. S. Gill, his security man Suresh Sharma and many others descended to the ground, congratulated us and hugged us.
The Korean manager Sam Ryul came to me and said, "You deserved to win. Good game." The Korean coach who accompanied him said, "You have done a very good job. Nice teamwork." The team leader of the Korean group also felicitated me.
Ballal and Dhanraj were the most sought after by the press and television personnel. Though mature, the duo just poured out their emotions that night. They did not hesitate to go hammer and tongs at the manner in which the IHF ran the game. What controlled them was their heart, not their brain.
Mr. Jagannatha Rao of the Press Trust of India and a few more journalists spoke to me on the ground. The Doordarshan duo of badminton ace Sanjay Sharma and Soma Bhattacharya took my interview.
A group of cameramen who wanted to take a team photograph of the players and coaches had to wait for nearly 45 minutes. In between, we took a victory lap around the stadium holding aloft the Indian tricolour, amidst thunderous roars of applause. After the lap, the players encircled me, Negi and the manager, and lifted us.
Our players assembled for the medal ceremony. To our team's right was 3rd place Pakistan, and to our left was Korea. I expected the Pakistani officials to greet us. From a distance, their manager and coach waved at me. That was their only gesture. I felt bad - the Pakistanis could have been more sporting.
Since we were sweating, and had no fresh jerseys to change over, we wore the track suits given to us during the camp by the Sports Authority of India, Southern Centre, Bangalore. IOA secretary general Randhir Singh objected to our wearing old dress.
Randhir's objection was justified since the IOA had given all kits, including a set of sponsor's jerseys to the IHF. But the kits were lying in the IHF office in National Stadium in Delhi! The fact remains that we collected our official jerseys and kit in Delhi only after we returned from Bangkok.
The president of the Asian Hockey Federation, Sultan Azlan Shah, gave a mascot and bouquet to all the 48 players assembled on the dais. The mascot was an eye-catching, exquisitely hand-spun, snowy white, spongy teddy bear.
Then came the momentous occasion - the presentation of the gold medals to our team. The players were excited, their eyes were moist. The Indian tricolour went up to the tune of our national anthem in the background.
When we returned to our dressing room, our manager, his wife Krishna, our local supporter Mr. Sharma and the players prayed and thanked the Almighty. Surprisingly, none of the IHF officials were there with us to continue the celebration.
While the manager returned to the Games village with his friends in their car, we took the bus back to the village. It was all song and dance in the bus. We sang the popular Hindi songs: 'Bombay Se Aaya Mera Dost; Apan Do Saiba Daru Peeta Michael; Daru ki Botal Michael Bhai Bharte Hain.'
We kept on singing till we reached the village around 11 pm. Our girl's team was waiting to greet us. They had witnessed the final from the stands, but were prevented by the security men to come down to the ground after the match.
Negi took us to the Games village bar. We all consumed a few bottles of beer, for which Negi paid the bill. It was late in the night, probably around 1 am, when I went to bed. The players were still celebrating and dancing in their rooms.
The next evening, the local Indian Chamber of Commerce gave a party to all the Asiad medal winners. The Indian hockey team was prominent in the well-attended party. The organisers gave Rs. 1 lakh to the team, which was shared by the players, coaches and manager. We also got leather bags, Parker pen sets and other items as gifts.
We left the party around 11 pm. Till now, we had not spotted a single IHF face.
The following day, we all took part in the march past in the closing ceremony. In an immensely satisfying finish to the Games, our captain Dhanraj Pillai was asked to lead the Indian contingent.
Indian Team Celebrates Historic Victory
Photograph Courtesy Sportstar