FOR SOMEONE who has been almost a star for the past few months, it wasn't expected to begin with an apology. "I am sorry for not picking up the phone earlier but I have been inundated with calls today," was the first thing Viren Rasquinha said on being contacted.
But then, Rasquinha has always been the quintessential gentleman. The Olympian bid adieu to competitive hockey at the Bombay Hockey Association (BHA) ground on Friday — he will be studying for his MBA after this — and he did it in style, leading Indian Oil to the 26th PSPB tournament title.
"It feels great to go out on a winning note, especially now that I won't play competitive hockey at this level ever again," admitted an exhausted but charged Rasquinha.
Asked what went through his mind just before the match, Rasquinha said, "It was emotional, but I had been preparing for it. I was surprised to see a huge crowd for the match. My family was there to see me play, and my mom came, for the first time ever in her life, to see a match at the ground. It was simply amazing."
Being part of the national squad for more than five years, he said it was like letting go of his second family. "After the match, the entire team gave me a guard of honour with the sticks raised, and that is something I will always remember. We had a farewell dinner from IOC last night but I did not expect this today," he said, the pride and emotion apparent in his voice.
Interestingly, the man who was known as much for his leech-like tenacity on the field as for his dives did not disappoint on this day either. He sustained a cut above the eye, and laughed when told so. "Well, I would rather not be known for my injuries!"