LUCKNOW: It is not often that an entire team walks in for a press conference, but winning the World Cup is a special occasion and calls for special celebrations.
It was an emotional and teary Harendra Singh who walked in with his 18 players for the post-match interaction. But the India coach refused to say anything, pushing his wards to the front instead and insisting they take the limelight.
He had been lifted high on the field, danced with abandon with anyone he saw and had proved himself. But, talking to the media, he held back.
Manager Roelant Oltmans did not.
“The first half was very close to a perfect game. But in the second half we gave them a little bit too much initiative, to be honest. But not for one second in this game was I worried. The boys did a fantastic job and all the credit to these 18 players,” Oltmans said.
Captain Harjeet Singh said: “Everybody has put in a lot of hard work and discipline. We all had one aim, and we thankfully we managed to achieve that today. We all knew what we have to do in the field, everyone knew their duties. We just concentrated on that and played simple hockey. We played the final like a final.”
Asked what exactly ‘simple hockey’ was, he laughed. “Get the ball, pass the ball, move ahead. That’s all. It’s that simple, really,” he said.
Soon after winning the semifinal against Germany, Belgium coach Jeroen Baart had said he hoped his side gets to play India in the final, mainly for the kind of electrifying atmosphere that has been the norm here every time the Indian team has stepped on the field.
“We have never played in such a fantastic atmosphere before, it will be a great experience for the boys,” Baart had said. His boys did get an experience all right. Just that it was not something they would have liked.
Belgian captain Victor Wegnez indicated that the crowd was more than his side had bargained for. “The crowd made it impossible to communicate. The only thing we could understand was that every time the noise levels increased, we knew India was attacking,” he said. “Other than that, we tried to communicate in sign language but there was nothing we could do in front of such a huge number of people.”
Baart added: “India started really well. Our boys didn’t handle the crowd and the atmosphere well. They were pretty fast. It was not easy to play India in India in such a fantastic atmosphere. Today, we just weren’t good enough to beat them.”
The Indian team was grateful to that crowd. “We would like to thank every one who has come out here for all our games, they have helped us achieve this,” said Varun Kumar.
Gurjant, hero of the last two games, quipped that he had “saved his heroics for the last two important matches” while Harjeet promised this lot of players would give “a lot more joy many more times in the future”.