It was after a hiatus of 15 years that India won the 2016 Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup – fittingly, the national team crowned themselves in glory in front of their home crowd at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in Lucknow. The memories of Gurjant Singh and Simranjeet Singh wresting the initiative from the formidable Belgium outfit in the first twenty-odd minutes of play will remain ingrained in the minds of our hockey lovers for many more years to come. The World Cup final win over Belgium was a kind of sweet revenge for the Blueshirts, who had lost to the Red Lions 2-4 in a Four Nation Tourney held in Valencia, Spain prior to the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup.
“There cannot be any bigger moment than standing on the podium. The very feeling of winning the Junior World Cup in front of over 25,000 spectators in Lucknow was special. The icing on the cake was that we could corner glory at a Stadium named after hockey legend Dhyan Chand. The triumph was possible due to the efforts of the entire team, who played outstanding hockey,” says India’s 2016 Junior World Cup Coach Harendra Singh, who is now serving as Head Coach of US Men’s Hockey Team which is also featuring in the 12th Junior Men’s World Cup in an exclusive chat with Hockey Passion.
The 2016 Junior Men’s World Cup-winning coach shares his perspective on how the Indian colts was teeming with confidence after winning the Four Nation Tourney in Valencia, Spain that was held a month before the marquee event. “I think the confidence of my boys was sky-high after we had pipped Germany 5-3 in the final. We defeated Germany 3-1 in the league tie as well and the boys are well prepared for the Junior World Cup.”
Harendra, who had also served as chief coach of the senior men and women teams, revealed how challenging it was to pick the side for the 2016 Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup was challenging. “My entire group of 24 were high-quality and it was unfortunate that I could only pick 18 players. The likes of Dilpreet Singh and Hardik Singh, who dazzled in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, were standbys and I felt bad for these guys, who had to miss out on playing in the Junior World Cup,” he quips.
The current US men’s team head coach dwells on the massive government support the national team enjoys. “In India, the kind of government support is there, no player needs to worry about their future or livelihood once they make the nation proud at big-ticket events. The central and state governments do so much to support their players and the scale of government support in India is so great for the sport of hockey,” he signs off.