When India men’s national team won bronze at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, no-one was more delighted than their former Head Coach Cedric D’Sousa.
D’Sousa, who now is Head Coach to Austria U18 men’s team, says, “On the back of that performance, India are now ranked number three in the world. That is a phenomenal rise from number seven. When we talk about a long wait – 41 years – I say better a long wait than never.
“Their performance in the bronze medal match was phenomenal. They took on the German structure and they broke it. What we saw in that match was the German team made uncharacteristic mistakes and the Indian team capitalised on that.”
D’Sousa speaks highly of the work of Head Coach Graham Reid, particularly the manner in which he developed a sense of togetherness within the India team.
“Most importantly, this team is a family,” says D’Sousa. “There was a centre of excellence in Bangalore and the team stayed in that bubble. They really got to know each other, they worked together and they talked together. That was the turning point for this team. The fitness and the set plays is part and parcel of hockey but this camaraderie was something extra.
“In the match, in the last 15 minutes, and then again with six seconds to go when Germany had a penalty corner, the captain said, ‘Remember what we spoke about in the camps, we are all in this together.”
D’Sousa knows many of the players very well through his role as coach to Delhi Waveriders in the Hockey India League. “There were 11 players in total at the Olympic Games who had played for the Delhi Waveriders, from across a number of teams, including Belgium’s goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch. I sent them messages and said we will talk when they have all relaxed a bit.”
Looking at what comes next for the Olympic bronze medallists, D’Sousa says a lot depends on the amount of exposure the team receives.
“The process needs to be continued. The belief has to keep growing and they have to raise the bar. But for me, it is now about exposure. They need recognition, better job opportunities and promotions. They also need cash incentives. In cricket, there is a lot of money for playing the sport, but these players deserve some reward.
“When you have tasted success, you are hungry for more. They have worked really hard and they now should be aiming for the silver and gold medals. I think the way they are going, they are on the right track.”