Hope Tokyo Olympics next year is as memorable for Indian Hockey as it was in 1964: Harbinder Singh

Avinash Sharma

New Delhi, July 24: Harbinder Singh, who was part of India's gold medal-winning team at 1964 Olympic Games, is hoping that the current team led by Manpreet Singh would be able to do the same in the Tokyo Games scheduled to be held next year.

The Tokyo Olympics were scheduled to be played this year but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been postponed till summer of 2021. Interestingly, the Olympic Games of 1964 were also held in Tokyo where Indian men's hockey team defeated Pakistan 1-0 in the final to clinch the top honours.

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"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. We had come into the Final after some very strong performances in the league matches against Belgium (2-0), Germany (1-1 draw), Spain (1-1), Hong Kong (6-0), Malaysia (3-1), Canada (3-0) and Netherlands (2-1). In the Semi-Final, we had beaten Australia (3-1)," he said.

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Recalling the final against arch-rivals Pakistan, Singh said: "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. 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.

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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. 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."

Singh believes that after more than 50 years the Olympics is again being held in Tokyo and he hopes that India will win the elusive medal at the quadrennial event and end the drought of more than 40 years.

"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."

"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."

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