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‘Want to see them win’

india Updated: Feb 19, 2010 23:58 IST
Arjuna awardee

Arjuna awardee, Col. Harcharan Singh, was a member of the 1975 World Cup winning team. One of the few players to win gold, silver and bronze at World Cups, he pens his memories of the 1975 triumph:

We reached Kuala Lumpur with trepidation, as there were rumours of the team being withdrawn because of administrative reasons. But our spirits lifted when we saw the glittering trophy in the hotel lobby.

Our resolve to lift it was further strengthened as it had slipped from our grasp on two occasions. We started the tournament well by beating England 2-1 and blanked African champions, Ghana, playing their first World Cup, 7-0. Our sole hiccup was the draw against Australia before we were shocked 1-2 by Argentina.

I don't think we were complacent but no one could have imagined the outcome of the match against Argentina. I gave India the lead but Argentina came back with a vengeance to score twice. We had to beat Germany in the replayed must-win match to secure a spot in the semifinals. Looking back, the defeat against Argentina was a blessing in disguise as the team got galvanized and scored a well-deserved victory against Germany. BP Govinda, Surjit Singh and Mohinder Singh scored as we topped the pool.

Malaysia, who had reached the semifinals for the first time, awaited us next. It was a tricky match as the home crowd came out in full support.

The hosts were buoyed and took the lead twice but we fought back to win 3-2 in extra time. Aslam Sher Khan converted a late penalty corner to make it 2-2 at full time. We were happy to have come through such a tough match — producing our best hockey in the tournament till then.

A tough encounter was expected between archrivals India and Pakistan in the final. Everything depended on stamina and staying power and we were given a 50-50 chance. As expected, it was hockey at its best with both teams setting a fierce pace and counter attacks coming in swift succession. Pakistan took the lead but we were not to be undone.

Surjit Singh scored the equalizer through a penalty corner and Ashok Kumar scored the winner off a long corner after the ball had travelled from me to Ajitpal Singh to VJ Phillips, who passed it to Ashok.

It was doubly sweet as Indian hockey going through troubled times. The victory galvanized the nation but, unfortunately, we failed to promote the game properly. The standard has plummeted and we are at a stage where we fail to qualify for the Olympics, an event we dominated for years.

However, I am hopeful for the current team. I want to see them repeating our victory and making India proud again.