India hockey team captain Manpreet Singh was bemused when he was asked 16 minutes into the press conference about the Tuesday night’s incident at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Earlier, reports came out, citing eyewitnesses, who claimed that a Hockey India official ‘yelled at’ the Indian players for entering the VIP lounge. Soon the social media went ablaze with several people criticising the treatment of players.
“I was waiting for this question to be asked. It finally arrived,” the captain said with a soft chuckle. He then explained that things have been blown out of proportion. “It was our own mistake that we went to the restricted area without our knowledge. It is not that we were taken there forcibly by someone. Anyway, when we realised our mistake we just came out,” the midfielder said at the presser.
As per rules of the tournament, the players are not allowed to enter the VIP premises. But Manpreet and a few others entered the area on the request of a few fans to click pictures and sign the autographs. The act was did not go down with one of the official, who yelled at the players for doing so, as per witnesses.
Manpreet went on to add: “Much information which has been circulated is not correct. I just ask to not disseminate false info-“… But before he could finish his sentence, someone prompted – “Is that what you have been asked to say? Is there any pressure?”
Manpreet replied, “There is no pressure on me and neither did anyone ask me to say something. It was our fault, we were not supposed to be there.”
“I am in regular conversations with the officials. We have spoken after the incident on phone. There is no problem at all,” he finished.
Immediately afterwards, the Indian coach Harendra Singh was asked to weight in on how he keeps the focus of the team on the games when incidents such as this take place before big games. India are set to face Netherlands in the quarterfinal clash on Thursday, and if they win, it will be the first time they would become the World Cup semifinalists since 1975.
“That is a very good question,” the coach said prompting soft laughs within the room. “I have learnt from my experience. I know which country I am living in. I face issues even when I step out of the house. I told my players on the first day to create a circle and keep only things inside which are in your control. Throw everything else outside the circle,” he said.