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Sydney remains my biggest regret: Mohammed Riaz


TSI CORRESPONDENT | Issue Dated: January 1, 1970, London
Tags : Hockey assistant coach Mohammed Riaz | London Olympics |

Sydney remains my biggest regret : Mohammed RiazHockey assistant coach Mohammed Riaz says twelve years down the line, Sydney Olympics remains his only regret in life.

"It was a case of so near yet so far, If only we had beaten Poland,-we were leading till few minutes before the final whistle-in match which ended in a draw and we would have made it to the Semi Final. That would have been a game changer scenario for Indian Hockey," Riaz said in an interaction in the Games Village in London.

About state of the game in the country, Riaz believes that Hockey is part of the Indian folklore and that is why it evokes such a strong passion and sentiment.

"I don’t accept the view that Hockey is on the decline in India," said Chennai based two time Olympian, who is here with the Indian team as one of the coaches. Riaz added, "Yes we have not lived up to the expectations which millions of hockey lovers expected from us because we were eight time Olympic champion."

"Well there are several reasons for the slide from the top. First it is very difficult to stay at the top for very long. Take the case of Brazil, Argentina or even England in football, or any other sport, no team or individual has been undisputed leader for long, it is against the law of nature," he said, adding, "Earlier when we were dominating, some critics used to say that there is hardly any opposition, other countries are not interested in the game, but when others started winning, they now say Indian hockey is on decline."

A fine utility player, Riaz, represented India for a decade (1990-2000),played in two World Cups (1994,1998) Olympics (1996, 2000), Asian Games (1994,1998) argued, "Hockey is in my blood, I never thought of playing any other game, My father Mohammed Abdul Nabi played for the Railways and was an International referee, my younger brother Mohd.Nawaz played for Junior India."

Riaz explained the reason for his love for the game. "I played at various positions- insides left,midfielder etc- so i became a utility player,"he said.

"I always played hockey and was not interested in other game, because I wanted to excel in only one sport and people who watched me playing in school encouraged me to concentrate on hockey only. They said it is of no use playing four or five games- you will be jack of all trades but master of none, so I stuck to Hockey with all my love ,devotion and passion," he added.

Riaz further said, "Mohd.Shahid was my hero. At my home, hockey was the main topic of discussion. We used to hear about big players and my father wanted me to emulate Shahid and I became his fan."

"I first went abroad with Junior team to play in the World Cup qualifier in Malaysia in 1992. In 1994 I went to Australia with the national team and was declared man of the series against Australia. That was huge. It boosted my morale and gave me confidence that i can take on any player of the World. Till now i have sustained that confidence," he added.

"My father also ran a ‘ Universal Recreation Hockey Club in Chennai, which was a great grooming place for the youngsters," he informed.

Riaz said he get angery when people say that Hockey is played in only certain parts of India.

"I some time get irked when people say that hockey in India is confined to certain areas or regions.No sir they are wrong. It is played in every state. Tamil Nadu has produced several champion players. Even my school- Madarasa Azam in Chennai- itself has produced several Internationals like Munir Sait, Ataullah Khan and Abdul Subhan.I forget few other names," he said.

Riaz, who is also a Arjuna Award winner, said he is thankful to Hockey for what he is today. "I am a terminal manager in Air India at Chennai airport. I have played for my country now I am coach with the national team, I was also coach of the Junior Belgium team. I have earned enough, God has been very kind to me," he added.

Asked about highs and lows in his life, Riaz said, "1998 Bangkok Asiad was my high. We won the Gold in Asian Games after 32 years. Sydney Olympics in 2000 was my low and I explained to you the reason."

About current Hockey team, the coach said, "It is the fittest squad from India in the recent times. There has been a tremendous improvement. I am confident that this time, team will give a much better performance."
Riaz concluded by saying, "My life’s ambition is to give back to my country whatever I have got from it. I don’t want to keep any thing for me. India is everything to me."

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017