Olympic hockey qualifiers: it will be a different home for women in India

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has been the traditional hotbed of Indian hockey, and it's not just limited to men. The state has also been a nursery for the national women's team, but never before have the locals had the opportunity to support women in large numbers.

The Olympic qualifying event against the USA UU., Which begins on Friday, gives them that long-awaited opportunity. Facing a capacity of 15,000 expected spectators in the Kalinga Stadium In his opinion, it will be a home experience like never before for the Indian women's team.

Although it is not the first time that women in India play Olympic qualifiers at home, it will be different by more than one count, compared to 2012 in Delhi, because (1) the focus on women's hockey has grown since qualifying for 2016 River Olympic Games , (2) the team has improved considerably in the last four years, (3) they had never played in a crowded stadium before and (4) the team has to prove that the record of 4-29 wins and losses against the Americans does not reflect precisely the growing stature of India in women's hockey.

But it won't be easy, even if India has eight players with 150 or more international matches compared to just one for the Americans (Captain Kathleen Sharkey). Among the four Indian players with an experience of 200 or more internationals is the girl Odisha Deep Grace Ekka (200 games). Captain Rani Rampal leads that list with 239 caps, followed by Vandana Katariya (238) and goalkeeper Savita (200)

It's not that American women have ever played in front of 15,000 screaming fans, but the pressure is likely to be more on the home team.

And the vice captain of India, Savita, admits that.

Everyone talks about the local public, but it's more pressure on the local team, said the veteran speaking with Timesofindia.com.

When we learned that we will play at home against the USA. UU., We talked about both the crowd and our game plan, because there are many young players on the team who would not know that atmosphere, Savita added. .

Among these young people are the teenagers Sharmila Devi (7 caps), Lalremsiami (62 caps) and Salima Tete (27 caps).

In Delhi, seven years ago, India failed to make it to the London Olympic Games , losing to South Africa in the final; but this team led by Rani Rampal has ticked quite a few boxes to earn respect from opponents.

The silver medalists of the 2018 Asian Games, led by the Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne, have greatly increased their fitness levels with the help of the scientific approach to training. Exhibition trips to Europe have helped both individuals and the team to grow. More importantly, the team would like to demonstrate that qualifying for Rio 2016 was not a flash in the pan.

However, managing the pressure, amid strong cheers, could be the key to deciding who, between India and the US. UU., Qualifies for the Tokyo Games.

If your goals are in place and you know what you have to do, then you don't think about the pressure of the crowd and don't get overwhelmed by that or thinking about the end result, Savita continued.

And then it ended with a shot to cheer on hockey fans in Odisha before Friday night's game.

They are our supporters at the end of the day.