'Pressure may hurt India's Olympic prospects'

Spain's Garza hopes Nobbs' men don't wilt under weight of expectations

Post the celebrations and felicitations following India's recent Asian Champions Trophy hockey win in China, as the players prepare to embark on yet another camp in Bangalore setting their sights on the all-important Olympic Qualifiers, here's an important tip from one of European hockey's top stars.

Spain's hockey ace Rodrigo Garza

Former Spain captain, three-time Olympian and two-time World Cupper Rodrigo Garza told MiD DAY yesterday that the quicker the Indian team gets down to training hard for the Olympic qualifiers, the better it will be for them. India -- a seven time Olympic champion in hockey -- who failed to make it to the Olympics (Beijing 2008) for the first time in 80 years, are in a similar situation this time round too and have to win an Olympic qualifier tournament early next year to make it to the 2012 London Games.

Spain are in similar situation, but not under as much pressure as India, felt Garza. "I've played in India at the 2005 Champions Trophy (Chennai) and 2010 World Cup (New Delhi) and have witnessed first hand the passion for hockey in the country. It's huge. Spain too is under pressure to make it to the Olympics, but that pressure is next to nothing when compared to what the Indian hockey team will have to undergo. I just hope the pressure does not get to the Indian players," said Garza.

"The Olympic qualifier is one of the toughest tournaments because one slip-up and you can miss the Games.
"For any hockey player, the Olympics is the biggest stage -- even bigger than the World Cup. So, I can imagine how tough it will be for the Indian players," said Garza, who yesterday signed up along with Argentina's Lucas Vila, Matias Vila and Netherlands' Pedro Ibarra among others for the inaugural edition of the franchise-based World Series Hockey to be played in India from December 15 to January 22.

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