The Indian men’s hockey team returned home from Incheon to a heroes’ welcome, with fans turning out in large numbers to receive the Asian Games champions.
Teary-eyed and overjoyed fans hugged and cheered the players and support staff as they stepped out of the Indira Gandhi international airport.
The team got for India its third Asian Games gold — and qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics Games.
Goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, the hero in the thrilling final against eight-time champions and holders Pakistan, was the most sought after at the airport.
Sreejesh, who made two brilliant saves in shootouts after regulation play ended 1-1 to help India clinch the title after 16 long years, reiterated there was no pressure on the team in the final.
“There was no pressure on us in the final against Pakistan. We were confident of winning.
“When they were leading at the end of the first quarter, we still had no pressure as we were aware we had three more quarters left.
“We knew we would score and win. In the penalty shootout, the entire team was relaxed and had the confidence in me,” said Sreejesh.
“There was no pressure on me. I knew I could stop them although they had beaten Malaysia in shootouts. I am happy I did it for my country. The focus now is on the Champions Trophy of December,” he added.
Captain Sardar Singh said the team worked hard and deserved to be champions.
“I am proud of my team mates. Thanks to all the players, this win wouldn’t have been possible,” he said.
“Our team was indeed well prepared. We will keep on improving with every match we play in the future.”
The team was received by Hockey India president Mariamma Koshy and other officials.
Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra congratulated the players, saying they didn’t lose their focus in a high-pressure encounter against Pakistan.
“I am happy the boys tackled the pressure till the last shootout. Having clinched the gold, the team has made us proud and the best thing about the team is it succeeded in its strategy and game plan.
“(But) I still feel there is a lot of room for improvement.”