Indian Hockey team is popular among Indian public more by the film Chak De India than their deeds. The film was inspired by the Indian Women Hockey team Gold medal run in difference tournaments. Yet, at global level except the solo appearance in 1980 at Olympics, they have failed to achieve much. As a result, history beckons them when they play the qualifier final against South Africa for the coveted place in London Olympics of 2012.
Glorious History of Top Performance
Indian women has won the Gold medal for three consecutive years. The Gold were won in 2002 Commonwealth Games, the 2004 Afro-Asian Games, and the 2004 Hockey Asian Cup. But before and after the successful stint under the Captain Suraj Lata Devi, Indian Women’s Hockey team have nothing to boast.
Besides that they have won the Bronze in Hockey Champions Challenge once.
Overall Indian Women have won following medals:
1. A Gold (2002) and a Silve (2006) in Commonwealth Games.
2. A Gold (1982), a Silver (1998), two Bronze (1986 & 2006) at Asian Games
3. A Gold (1981), a silver (1999) and a Bronze (1993) at Asia Cup
4. A Gold at Afro-Asian Games (2003)
5. A Bronze at Hockey Champions Challenge (2002)
World Level Performances
At World Cup and Olympic Games, the best Indian performances have been 4th place finish at 1974 in WC and 1980 in Olympics. In World Cup, on other two occasions when Indian Women’s team participated, they finished 11th (2006) and 12th (1998).
Incidentally, 1980 Olympics is the only time Indian Women’s Hockey team ever represented at Olympics. That also happen due to the boycott of Moscow Olympics by Western Block, when Indian team was called to fill the places.
Indian Women Players
In the past there have been some international level players, but as a team India failed to shine in Women’s Hockey. So far 18 Women from Hockey team have received Arjuna Awards till 2011, none of them represent the country now.
Among the current lot, Rani Devi received the Most Promising Young Player of the Tournament award in 2008 Olympics Hockey qualifier when Indian finished 4th.
Billion Hopes on Indian Women Shoulders
When Indian women, ranked 2nd in the event, play South Africa, ranked top in the event, play the Olympic Qualifiers final on 25th Feb, 2012 billions of Indian fans will pray for their first Olympic entry by qualification. Remember their only other Olympic entry in 1980 was by request, not qualification.
The challenge is to defeat South Africa. It is a tough ask as South Africa is the only team in the event to have defeated India at pool stage. In fact, they trounces Indians by 5-2. But as it stands for all the games, final is a different ball game where rankings and reputations do not matter. Indian women have already overcome the semifinal-type hurdle against Italy. Now it is the final hurdle to clear against South Africa in the final.
Indians will hope that the Indian women squad can forget the pool result and concentrate on the target to reach London to win the tournament and book tickets for London. Every Indian would be praying from Stadium, standing in front of Television sets, or else just with folded hands without watching the match, and saying Chak De India, for real now.