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'Tokyo Olympic team is one of the fittest to leave our shores' claims former hockey captain M M Somaya

Tokyo Olympic team is one of the fittest to leave our shores claims former hockey captain M M Somaya

M.M. Somaya or Maneyapanda Muthanna Somaya, the Arjuna Award-winning hockey player who has represented the country in the 1984 Los Angels Olympics also as part of the Gold medal winning Indian Hockey team of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, feels that the Tokyo Olympic team is one of the fittest to leave our shores.

"They are more aware tactically than earlier teams. The 'rolling substitution' rule in particular is being leveraged well by the team and this should enable them to maintain a blistering pace right through the tournament" said Somaya.

"The team has beaten the best in the FIH PRO League and other matches over the past 2-3 years. They will therefore be entering the Olympics with a lot of positive energy. They more than justify their 4th position in the FIH rankings." he added.

Talking about his experience of being a part of the Indian team which won gold in the Moscow Olympics, Somaya said, "It was my first trip out of India and it was the first time I was seeing poly grass which was the artificial surface used in the 1980 Olympics. India didn't have an artificial surface then. I was also seeing a European for the first time on a hockey field and was awestruck by their fitness and size"

"I was fortunate that I had a great Coach in Balkrishen Singh and Captain in Bhaskaran who mentored me and ensured that the Moscow Games were memorable on and off the field. The American led boycott of the Games saw hockey having a depleted field. So winning Gold with a young team was extremely satisfying but did not fill us with euphoria" he added.

Somaya had participated in 1980 Moscow, 1984 Los Angeles and captained Team India in 1988, Seoul Olympics.

"The three Olympics were memorable for different reasons. In Moscow winning the Gold medal saw the team get onto the victory podium for the award ceremony. This was a childhood dream and so very special.At Los Angeles, we had probably the best team India has ever had after introduction of astroturf. We played fantastic hockey but lost out a semifinal berth on an inferior goal difference.At Seoul, I had the opportunity of captaining the team which was another high point of my career. Jointly creating game plans with the team and watching them play out in matches was immensely satisfying. Here again, we were pipped to a semifinal spot but finished in the top six" Somaya remembered.

Somaya also opined that Hockey has had a major makeover over the years due to many rule changes.

"The abolishing of 'offside' has transformed the game completely. Artistic build-up with short passing has given way for the frequent long heave into the striking circle in search of poaching forward. The alteration of the 'turning' rule has made it difficult for defenders since an attacker can now shield the ball with his body and then speed off in any direction. And the latest 'rolling substitution' rule has seen the game being played at an explosive pace. So tactics have changed to suit these rules. Field hockey has certainly undergone a major transformation over the past three decades" he said.

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TAGS:Indian Hockey team MM Somaya Tokyo Olympics 
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