India men’s superb 2-1 victory over reigning world champions Belgium, played in Bhubaneswar in February, has been voted as the 3rd best FIH Hockey Pro League match of 2020 by fans on the Watch.Hockey app.
To mark the occasion, we spoke with India captain and 2019 FIH Men’s Player of the Year Manpreet Singh about this fascinating encounter at the Kalinga Stadium.
Manpreet Singh: “It was a great match, if you look back at it. We won by 2-1, but the way Belgium played was outstanding – obviously they are the best in the world.”
FIH: And that is the thing, isn’t it? In the FIH Hockey Pro League you do have to play the very best teams in the world and boy did you play well against them this year. You must be very proud of the way you played, particularly against Belgium, the world champions.
Manpreet Singh: “Yes, that is true, because whenever we play against Belgium it is always a good match, because they are a really good team and they always create opportunities, score good goals and have good, experienced players.”
FIH: What can you remember about the atmosphere in Bhubaneswar on that day? I seem to remember, as a viewer watching on TV, thinking it was pretty special, but what was it like for you as an athlete?
Manpreet Singh: “Whenever you are playing in Bhubaneswar, it is outstanding because of the crowd. They are not only supporting the Indian team; they are supporting other teams as well. Actually, I spoke to some of the people in Bhubaneswar and they said that Belgium is their ‘second team’. So actually, they like to support Belgium as well, because they enjoy the way that Belgium play.”
FIH: The fans in Bhubaneswar have a lot of hockey knowledge - they recognise good hockey when they see it, and always give a lot of respect to the visiting teams. It was a very special match, and special for your team. Would you say it was the best performance of your season, although the season was cut short due to COVID-19?
Manpreet Singh: “It was a good performance, not only against Belgium but other games too. We played six matches, with two matches against Australia, and the Netherlands as well. I’d say that we had a good performance in all six matches; we were playing very well and looking forward to the [Tokyo 2020] Olympics. The team had good confidence with all the support – they were doing great. Unfortunately, with the covid situation, we didn’t play any other international matches [after that].”
FIH: Looking ahead to 2021 when hockey resumes, whether it’s the FIH Hockey Pro League or the Olympics later in the year. How is preparation going for 2021, with the India men’s team?
Manpreet Singh: “Actually right now we are in a national [training] camp in Bangalore, so we are working on our skills and fitness levels. It has been such a long gap as we haven’t played any international matches, which could affect our fitness levels. We are working to maintain our fitness levels for 2021, because that will be crucial for us with the Olympics, and also the Asian Champions Trophy in March. We are really missing international matches. In September [in the FIH Hockey Pro League] we saw Belgium play against other teams. We were watching and really wanted to play, actually! We are looking forward to international matches, playing with the good teams.”
FIH: Well, I’m sure like the rest of the world we are all desperate to see everyone back on the field again. We really hope to see you in action in the FIH Hockey Pro League in 2021. Thanks so much once again for joining us and congratulations once again.
Manpreet Singh: Thank you so much!”
We will reveal who the fans have selected as the second best FIH Hockey Pro League match of 2020 on Thursday 17 December, with the winner being revealed on Friday 18th December.
Don’t forget to download the Watch.Hockey app, where you can find the latest news and interviews as well as action replays and highlights. Simply search Watch.Hockey in the App Store or on Google Play. A desktop version of the app is available at www.watch.hockey.
Image: India claimed a 2-1 victory over world champions Belgium in February at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Copyright: Hockey India.