They played well, but “dissatisfied” and not “confident” to face the challenges on the field at the Rio Olympics 2016 ( if they qualify); but at the same time concerned about the “game”.

A striker from Haryana, Rani Rampal talks at length about the team&’s performance, hurdles and the secret behind the success.

Whether, they will play in the prestigious Olympics, the picture will be clear only in October, depending on the performance of other teams at a series of continental championships, which offers a qualification route to Rio. If they do, it will only be the second time after 1980 that the women team will participate in the prestigious Olympics.

How difficult was it to reach to this level and what was the biggest difference this time for a team which was struggling to make an impact on the global arena, Rani Rampal discusses all that and much more in an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com.

The 20-year-old shares the bouquets and brickbats they face and the challenges to be head and shoulders above the rest.

Excerpts from the interview:

Are you satisfied with the team&’s performance in the Hockey World League Semi-Final?

No, I’m not satisfied with the performance of the Indian Hockey Team in the Hockey World League Semi-Final, we could have done better. But, at the same time I am happy that we have created a chance to qualify for the Olympics for the first time. Our target was to play the semi final but we could not qualify and had to settle with the 5th position.

 

Do you think India&’s qualifying for the Olympics will be a big booster for the young and budding hockey players?

It will be a great achievement for women hockey team if we qualify for the Rio Olympics. It is everyone&’s dream to take part in Olympics and win medals. I think if we keep continuing this performance then yes, more and more girls would come forward and play hockey.

 

Does new coach Mathias Ahrens deserve credit for the performance in Belgium?

No, I don’t think this coach has contributed much for the performance. He has just joined and it&’s not easy for him also. He has not changed our game.

 

What has been the role of Hockey India? Have they been supportive?

Yes, they have been very supportive. But, men are given more preferences in terms of government jobs, sponsors, etc. Lot of tournaments like leagues and championships are happening only for them.

 

Do you think that we are at par in fitness with the leading teams like Netherlands and Australia?

Yes, our new lot of youngsters is very fit. This is not an issue and we are better than other teams now in terms of fitness. The biggest drawback is our game. We are not able to finish properly and unable to convert our goals. In the last tournament too we conceded lot of penalty corners and missed a lot of chances to convert.

There always have been questions on defence as you mentioned. But, against Japan, India did well by keeping them searching for a goal in the last three quarters.

Yes, to stop Japan was not easy, but at one point of time 11 of us were in defence saving the goal; this is how we tackled them. Not to forget that we conceded lot of goals against other teams in the tournament.

 

Are you satisfied with your personal performance in the tournament?

No, I am not satisfied with my performance too. I could have done better.

 

How optimistic are you to qualify for the Olympics?

I am very positive about it. Not only positive, I have this gut feeling that we will play Rio Olympics.

 

If Indian team qualifies for the Olympics, what will be the next goal?

It will not be easy for us to compete with the best teams in the world. A lot of hard work is required. We need to fine-tune our skills. Our aim will be to finish in the last six. We will give our best shot.