Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur were among the first few to congratulate the Indian team for winning the AHF Junior Men Asia Cup tournament for a record fourth time.
Both Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. Anurag Thakur congratulated each member of the winning team for bringing great honor to the country. They said that team members would be suitably honoured for their excellent achievement on returning home.
Hockey India, too, congratulated the team for its outstanding performance at Salalah, Oman, where it remained the only unbeaten team in the eight-nation tournament. Besides winning the prestigious cup for the fourth time, it has also qualified for the FIH World Cup for Junior Men to be played in Malaysia in December this year.
With this victory, India has created a new record of winning the maximum titles at the Men’s Junior Asia Cup. The team had previously won the title in 2004, 2008 and 2015 while Pakistan has won the tournament in 1988, 1992, 1996.
Recognizing the team’s effort and its unbeaten record in the prestigious tournament, the Hockey India Executive Board announced a cash award of 2 lakh each for players and 1 lakh each for support staff.
Congratulating the team, Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey said, “The Indian team has made us all extremely proud with its unbeaten performance at the Junior Asia Cup. The team has shown great promise over the past few months, particularly after its historic win at the Sultan of Johor Cup they have become a dominant force and I believe this big win will hold it in good stead for the Junior World Cup later this year. Hockey India has decided to honour the players for this feat with a befitting cash award. I congratulate the team and the support staff for their efforts.”
An elated Hockey India Secretary General Bhola Nath Singh also lauded the team on its successful campaign. “The team showcased great character and spirit of the game in every match. The team’s continued success at the Junior Asia Cup is a testimony to Hockey India’s national program for the U21. I congratulate the team and the support staff for keeping up the Indian team’s record intact at the Junior Asia Cup.”
Going into the final on the back of a stupendous 9-1 win against South Korea in the semi-finals, India rode on confidence to get off to a roaring start.It pushed Pakistan on the backfoot with early opportunities to score. It capitalized on its opponents’ errors in the circle and took full advantage by converting a penalty corner earned in the 13th minute. While it was Araijeet Singh Hundal who took a powerful shot on goal, Angad Bir Singh was quick on his feet to pick up the rebound and find a perfect deflection.
While the opening goal put India in command, a goal by Araijeet in the 20th minute helped in putting pressure on the Pakistani defence.
In the following quarter, the two teams lived up to the billing, producing some tense moments that kept the full-house Salalah audience on their toes. Backed by a strong Pakistani fanbase, they were able to finally make a breakthrough in the 38th minute when Basharat Ali worked a brilliant field goal.
Though Pakistan found a number of opportunities to score through penalty corners in the last quarter, India custodian Shashikumar Mohith Honnenahalli made some sensational saves to keep India ahead.
It was a nail-biting finish, as Pakistan pushed for that elusive equaliser. But the spirited India Colts held their nerves to clinch the title in style and create history by clinching the fourth title in this prestigious competition.
“We wanted to win at any cost”
Speaking about the tense Final, India Colts Captain Uttam Singh who was awarded the Player of the Match said, “After the 1-1 draw in the round robin stage, we were very aware of the areas we had to do well in order to beat Pakistan. It was quite a nervous final. The team had never played in front of such a big crowd but I think early goals helped us stay in control of the game.”
India Coach CR Kumar said that it was a good team effort. “It came down to executing our opportunities. Though I feel we could have scored a few more goals, when you are playing a big opponent like Pakistan there is a lot of pressure. But I am very happy with the way the players controlled their emotions and played to their potential.”