Hockey team returns to hero’s welcome amid bhangra, dhol beats in Amritsar
Festivity was in the air as India’s bronze medal-winning men’s hockey team arrived in Amritsar, where they were accorded a warm welcome in Punjabi style on Wednesday morning.
The players, 10 of whom are from Punjab, paid obeisance at Golden Temple before heading to their homes. The bronze medal was worth its wait in gold as India returned home with an Olympic medal in hockey, the national game, after 41 years.
Indian woman hockey star Gurjit Kaur, who scored the only goal against Australia in a quarterfinal match, taking the Indian women’s team to the semi-final for the first time in the history of the Olympics, also arrived with members of the men’s hockey team at Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport at 6.30am.
They were received by Congress MLA and former Indian hockey player Pargat Singh along with Amritsar deputy commissioner Gurpreet Singh Khaira and family members of the players at the airport’s flying club.
“We are at loss of words to express how happy we are to see the welcome we have received at the holy city on returning to Punjab after winning the medal. I hope next time we return with the gold medal,” said Harmanpreet Singh, a leading scorer of the team.
Folk dancers, particularly bhangra performers, set the mood as they danced with gusto to the beat of the dhol, while slogans of Sat Sri Akal rent the air and the players were presented garlands and siropa (robes of honour) at the airport.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which had announced a reward of ₹1 crore for the team as an honour for winning the medal, sent a bus to bring the players from the airport to Golden Temple.
A majority of the team members belong to Punjab. Six players are from the state’s Majha region. All wore sky blue turbans, the colour of the team. At Golden Temple, the players offered prayers and gratitude for their remarkable performance at the Tokyo Olympics in which they defeated Germany to win the bronze medal.
A special ceremony was organised by the SGPC to felicitate them at the shrine. SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur presented a cheque for ₹1 crore and honoured each player with a siropa as senior Akali leaders, including former minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, looked on.