Hockey WC: Guest of Honour Leander thrilled for Team India

Dec 06, 2018, 11:55 IST | Ashwin Ferro

The seven-time Olympian was invited as Guest of Honour by Hockey India for the Netherlands v Germany World Cup league match at the Kalinga Stadium, for which he flew into the city last afternoon and returned to Mumbai the same evening

Hockey WC: Guest of Honour Leander thrilled for Team India
India tennis ace Leander Paes uses a hockey stick as a selfie stick to click a picture with Hockey India Executive Director RK Srivastava at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar yesterday. Pic/Ashwin Ferro

India tennis ace Leander Paes paid a flying visit to the City of Temples here yesterday because of his sheer love for hockey. The seven-time Olympian was invited as Guest of Honour by Hockey India for the Netherlands v Germany World Cup league match at the Kalinga Stadium, for which he flew into the city last afternoon and returned to Mumbai the same evening.

Leander's father Vece Paes is a 1972 Munich Olympian, so his association with hockey goes back a long way. He played the game too. "I've led my school team [La Martiniere, Kolkata] where I played centre-half. Hockey is such a beautiful game, so much stickwork and skill," he tells mid-day and immediately jumps up from his seat in the VVIP arena as the Netherlands take a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute through Valentine Verga.

Just then, two-time Olympian Jagbir Singh (Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992) enters to greet Leander, who narrates some sweet moments he has shared with the former centre-forward. "The 1992 Barcelona Olympics were my first Games and dad requested Jagbir to look after me since was I very young [19]. Jagbir ensured that I had every meal with him — breakfast, lunch and dinner — and if I wasn't around, he would be very worried. It was very sweet of him," adds Leander, 45, who plans to begin his season with the Maharashtra Open (December 31, 2018 to January 5, 2019) in Pune.

The topic invariably veers towards the Indian hockey team's prospects. "India are a young team, and the boys are so fit and fast. I saw the Belgium game on TV. I believe they can beat anyone on their day," he says, coming back to the ongoing European clash. "The Netherlands are higher ranked but you can never write off the Germans," he says, and right enough World No. 6 Germany go on to hammer the World No. 4 Dutch side 4-1 with Mathias Muller (30th min), Lukas Windfeder (52nd), Marco Miltkau (54th) and Christopher Ruhr (58th) scoring a goal each.

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