Updated: August 6, 2021 7:30:38 am
As the Indian hockey team faced Germany in the bronze medal match at Tokyo Olympics, I made preparations to watch the match, just as my father — Late Balbir Singh Senior, who passed away last year — would have liked to.
Whenever India would play any tournament, my father Balbir Singh Senior would always make it a point to tell us about his preparations to watch the match. A day prior to the match, he would remind us to wake him up at least one hour before the match if it was early in the morning. He would also tell us to make sure that we carried the Indian flag in his room. He would then watch the match with as much attention as a player or a coach would have. As he sat with all his passion and energy in front of the television, his cheers would be the loudest whenever India scored.
While it has been more than a year since he passed away, as we watched the Indian team complete a historic 5-4 win over Germany to win the bronze — an Olympics medal which India had been waiting for 41 years — it felt as if my father was watching the match from up there in heaven. We watched the match with the same passion as my father and cheered for the Indian team as it wrapped up a historic finish, both for Indian hockey and the whole country.
I still remember when the Indian junior hockey team won the junior World Cup in Lucknow in 2016. The entire Indian junior team, along with their coach Harendra Singh, had come to meet my father after the victory. My father met all the players and the coaches and gave them a pep talk after their title win. He listened to the players. He made sure that he talked with every player and listened to their stories, as well as appreciate the role of the coaches. As a coach, who had guided India to eight tournament wins, including the 1975 World Cup, he understood the role of a coach and he always told the players to respect them.
Whenever a junior or senior tournament happened in Chandigarh and my father was invited as a chief guest, he would always make sure that he talked with the members of the losing team and encourage them to improve. He used to tell them that this was not the last match of their careers and there is a scope for improvement for every team. He told this even to the winning team and he would spend a lot of time telling them what their mistakes were and what they needed to do to get better.
I still remember when we had recovered after spending more than 118 days at the hospital in 2019 and came back home. He saw one of India playing in an international tournament with keen interest while holding the Indian flag in his hand and cheering.
Whenever the Indian players scored a goal he would clap and appreciate. In those moments he would be as happy as a kid who had been told to do his favourite activity and so it was like a festival for all of us when my father would watch a match at home.
To see the Indian team create history, took us back to the time when my father and the Indian hockey team won three Olympic gold medals and how he took the role as a coach in the team. We missed him a lot more today.
As the bronze medal match began today, I hoisted the Indian flag on the rooftop of our Sector 36 residence in Chandigarh and as we cheered every goal and every comeback India made. I was also reminded about what my father told the players or other hockey lovers in his book ‘The Golden Yardstick’. He told players to always believe in themselves and he always said that that the place on the top is always empty. One just needs to strive hard and work hard in order to occupy the place. As the Indian team won the historic bronze medal on Thursday, I believe this is the way to the top for Indian hockey.
I really hope that this bronze medal takes the Indian team to new heights, which is something that my father would have liked to see. All the players of the team will be happy that they will not only be called mere Olympians but as Olympic medallists, like the past legends of hockey.
Sushbir Bhomia is the daughter of triple Olympics gold medallist Balbir Singh Senior.