Golden Memories
Sports Illustrated India|December 2018

India’s 1975 World Cup-winning hockey team’s captain revisits his team’s path to glory in Kuala Lumpur.

Ajit Pal Singh

I WAS NERVOUS before the start of our first match in the 1975 World Cup. It was the most important tournament of my life and for our team, which had great players who are now considered legends of the game. But those two weeks were crucial for all of us and it was imperative that we played not for ourselves but as a team to realise our dream of winning the grand tournament.

As captain, I was expected to lead by example and motivate the others. But everyone in our squad was self-motivated, and they knew what was required to come out on top. I remember one instance. When we arrived at our hotel in Kuala Lumpur, the trophy was kept at the reception desk, and a glance at it fuelled my desire of lifting it for my country even more.

We had already prepared intensely through a gruelling camp in Punjab, but we were aware that tougher yards lay ahead of us at the Stadium Merdeka. Clubbed in a tough pool, we had to play England, Ghana, West Germany, Australia and Argentina. Barring Ghana, the other five teams were capable of finishing in the top two and securing a qualification to the semifinals.

In a big tournament like the World Cup, it is imperative for teams to begin well to avoid putting themselves in do-or-die situations.

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