EXCLUSIVE: MM Somaya zeros down on the hard work of Indian players to get in sync with modern requirements ahead of Asian Games

The former India hockey captain talks about the changing scenario of the hockey as a sport, his thoughts on foreign coaches and more.


EXCLUSIVE: MM Somaya zeros down on the hard work of Indian players to get in sync with modern requirements ahead of Asian Games

MM Somaya (Via Open Source)

MM Somaya, former India hockey captain and now deputy Chef de Mission of Team India at the Asian Games, takes pride in saying today’s athletes have much more belief in themselves. He won a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and was part of two more editions in 1984 at Los Angeles and Seoul in 1988.

Having been with a public sector undertaking, Bharat Petroleum, till retirement, Somaya’s romance with hockey has continued. In a chat with FirstSportz, Somaya spoke about the changes and his new role as an administrator in Hangzhou.

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FS: How much do you think Indian sport has changed since your times?
Somaya: I think no comparison can be made between my time and today. This generation athletes are well versed and more in sync with the demands of the sport. I can talk specifically about our hockey and the changes that have taken place.

FS: Do you see Indian hockey adapting to changes and improving?
Somaya: The changes are visible in every sense. During my days, there was this conflict, playing hockey on grass and then shifting to the synthetic surface. Today’s players begin on synthetic turfs and are aware of the demands on their body.

Related: India begin with a bang by winning silver medal in the women’s air rifle team event at the Hangzhou Asian Games

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FS: How much of a change has taken place in playing style?
Somaya: There is a massive change, no doubting that. We relied more on skills during my time. Today, there is a mix of skills, teamwork and being immensely fit. Fitness is paramount and the inputs which are going in make a difference.

Women's cricket team with IOA Deputy Chef de Mission MM Somaya
Indian Women’s cricket team with IOA Deputy Chef de Mission MM Somaya (Via @WeAreTeamIndia/X)

FS: Talk of inputs, does it entail coaching or much more?
Somaya: Coaching is just one aspect. There are many more areas where India have worked on, including sports science being used. We have the best physios, trainers, video analysts and so in as part of the process. And the results are there to see.

FS: Do you think the idea of having a foreign coach is the best?
Somaya: I believe India is hiring the best coaches and we can see the results, both in men’s and women’s teams. The way our women have improved in fitness and speed is so positive. We have a foreign coach for the women’s team as well, so they are getting better. A fourth-place finish in the last Olympics was creditable.

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FS: Any comparison of coaches we have in India and the world?
Somaya: I am not against Indian coaches. Hockey has become a scientific game and today we are hiring the best people from abroad. They are aware they have to deliver.

FS: Is modern hockey more attractive?
Somaya: Hockey has always been beautiful. Maybe in the 80s, we felt it was hard to train on the synthetic surface. The game has become fast and the rolling substitution rule has been used well by our players as well. All these changes are adaptations by the Indians.

FS: You are in Hangzhou as the deputy Chef de Mission. What is your take on athletes from other sporting disciplines?
Somaya: I am happy to see so much positivity and confidence among the Indian athletes today. The exposure to more international competitions and being aware of each nation and player makes a difference. Technology has also played a role in this. Today, India has champions who are much better prepared to make a mark in the international arena. First day, first show, to win five medals is nice.

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