I hope Tokyo Olympics next year is as memorable for us as it was in 1964: Harbinder Singh


New Delhi: Legendary hockey player, Harbinder Singh went back in time recalling the historic I964 Tokyo Olympics final against arch-rivals Pakistan winning the gold medal and hoped that the current side led by Manpreet Singh will repeat the feat when the mega event comes back to the same venue 56 years later. The Olympics was originally scheduled to happen this year but due to the COVID-19 pandemic had to be postponed by a year.

“I have very vivid memories from our final against Pakistan in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. It was a tense final and the umpire had warned both teams that if there were to be any foul during the course of the match, then the player would be given a red card and he would be out of the match,” said the 1967 Arjuna Awardee.

Indian hockey has a rich history in the Olympics, having won eight gold, two bronze and one silver medals but their last success came 40 years ago in 1980 Moscow Olympics winning gold. In 1964, India began their campaign beating Belgium (2-0) before splitting points against Germany (1-1) and Spain (1-1). The thrashed Hong Kong (6-0) before securing victories over Malaysia (3-1), Canada (3-0) and The Netherlands (2-1) to enter the last four. In the semi-final, India had beaten Australia (3-1) before winning against Pakistan 1-0.

“In the first half of the final, both India and Pakistan created really good moves, strong chances to score but neither of us succeeded. After a 0-0 stalemate in the first half, India created a penalty corner within five minutes of the second half. This was a really good opportunity to score. The hit was taken by Prithipal Singh, who was in great nick having scored 10 goals in total at the Olympic Games.

Former India player Harbinder Singh believes that the current lot has the opportunity to shine at the biggest stage at Tokyo Olympics next year.

“But the hit was defended as the ball hit Pakistan Captain (Manzoor Hussain) Atif’s foot. This led to the umpire awarding India a penalty stroke. This was our golden opportunity and Mohinder Lal was brilliant in converting the goal. We took a 1-0 lead and held on to it till the last second. Though Pakistan did everything they could to equalise and take a lead, we had defended the score with all our heart,” added the 77-year-old.

Singh who has also won a gold and silver at the Asian Games in 1966 and 1970 stated, “It was a very memorable match and a very thrilling one for me personally because it was my first Olympic Games. Winning a Gold Medal in my first Olympics was surely a great feeling.” Having played as a center-forward himself, Singh believes this is the best opportunity for the current lot to end the draught.

“Now after more than half a century, the Olympics is again taking place in Tokyo where I saw my dream come true with the Indian team winning the gold medal. I feel it would be a great opportunity for our team to repeat this history in the same place by winning a gold medal and make it as memorable as it was for us in 1964,” he stated.

“It is every hockey fan’s dream to watch India win the highest honour – the Olympic Medal. We have a year to go for the Olympic Games to start, and I wish all the players and support staff preparing for the Tokyo Olympics the very best. I wish they bring laurels for the country.”