It was Chak de India after a long gap of 28 years — at the same Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium where the hosts had suffered their worst-ever defeat against Pakistan. A 7-1 pasting in the 1982 Asian Games is considered the blackest day for Indian hockey and set the sport’s fortunes into a tailspin from which they are still trying to recover.
But now, Mir Ranjan Negi, the goalkeeper of the 1982 team whose life inspired the movie starring Shah Rukh Khan, can enjoy the sweet taste of redemption. He can say a big thank you to this Indian team, which avenged the 1982 defeat with a thrilling 4-1 victory against the archrivals in the opening match of the Hero Honda FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup.
Jose Brasa’s boys came up with a scintillating display that had the Pakistanis dazzled and the full house swooning in delight.
The crowd came in hordes in the evening as the time for the match approached, despite the stringent security measures that meant they could not carry their mobiles, nor water or any food packets.
There were cops at the gates, around the polygras turf, in the stands and a helicopter circled the stadium, keeping a close vigil and ensuring that even the air around the stadium was kept sanitised. The security personnel even forced the crowd to empty all coins from their pockets, fearing the little metal discs could be used as missiles in case the fans got disgusted with the team’s performance.
But the India team did not give the crowd any reason to complain, putting put up a display that anyone lucky enough to watch live will remember for some time to come.
The crowd gave the team a rousing reception as it stepped on the pitch, even as the England and Australian players were leaving after their match.
The noise touched a crescendo with every goal.
Waving the Indian flag and shouting the names of the players eveytime they touched the ball, it felt like the crowd was on its feet for the entire 70 minutes.
Once they started cheering the Indian team, they did not stop till they left the stadium, singing, dancing, and celebrating a victory that has reignited the dream of regaining the lost glory of years gone by. The decibel level never came down even by a decimal point.
Only one thing mattered for the crowd, the fact that India had beaten Pakistan in the World Cup and that that close to 14,000 of them were together to soak in the excitement of the win.
For many of the hockey faithful, it was the best moment of their lives, and overall, the perfect day to be Indian.