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The pressure of playing at home

February 10, 2021

This week’s Legendary Moments revisits one of the most atmospheric and exciting events to take place in the past few years – the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018.

The event, which took place in the capital city of the state of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, was an action-packed event from start to finish, with all the dramas, thrills and spills expected of an event in which the top teams in the world are all chasing the title. The event was made even more memorable by the noisy, knowledgeable and passionate crowds of hockey supporters who packed into the stadium every day.

The matches were played in the magnificent Kalinga Stadium against a backdrop which was a riot of colour and a cacophony of sound and, when India took to the pitch, the decibels rose even higher. It was on this stage that India opened their World Cup account with a Pool C match against South Africa. 

PR Sreejesh was captain of the India team in Bhubaneswar and, as he says in our exclusive interview, one of the most difficult tasks was to help the less experienced players keep the emotions in check as they prepared for the match to start.

“It is important to keep everything simple,” says the veteran goalkeeper. “There is a danger that, with all the excitement, the players will try to make every action the ‘best’ action ever. But the key is to do it as we do it in training, as if there is no-one there watching.”

Joining Sreejesh on the interview is Lalit Upadhyay, who scored a goal during India’s 5-0 win against the South African team. He says his main job is to score goals for his team so he was delighted to get off the mark in the opening match. However, he adds, he took equal joy in every goal that was scored during the game, because “every goal is a team goal”.

Listen to the two players talk about their pride in playing in front of the home fans and their belief that India are more than ready to take on the challenge of adding to their eight Olympic gold medals in Tokyo later in the year.

You can watch the part 1 of this two-part interview here.

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