Hockey team leaves for Santiago for Olympic qualifiers

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Bangalore, Feb 24 (UNI) In its bid to regain the past glory, the Indian hockey team today left the city for Santiago in Chile, to take part in the nine-day Beijing Olympics qualifying tournament, scheduled to start on March 1.

Speaking before the departure, Coach Joaquim Carvalho said he had high expectations from his boys and the tournament could mark a 'turnaround for the Indian Hockey Team'. ''We need to win this tournament very badly,'' he said.

The players would reach Mumbai tonight and take an early morning flight to Santiago tomorrow.

''It was basically a self analysis made by the players themselves at the four-day camp held at SAI (Southern Centre) here. It had more to do with video analysis and we also had a couple of practice sessions,'' he said.

Joaquim said he was grateful to the supporting staff, who worked very hard. The players were also very keen to win the tournament.

The field includes, apart from hosts Chile, Britain, Mexico, Austria and Russia. The winner would take last qualifying spot for the Beijing olympics.

''The Boys are rearing to go. They are determined to win the tournament. They did the analysis themselves. They analysed the defence, midfield and the firing line and came up with good suggestions. I had never seen the boys put up such hard work for many years. Now the work on planning is done and implementing is left to them,'' he said.

India would face Russia in their first game.

Left half Prabodh Tirkey is retained as captain of the team, which has Bharat Chetri replacing injured Adrian D'Souza as the number one keeper. Drag flicker Bharat Ram has come in for Jaswinder Singh, while strikers Bharat Chhikara and Ajitesh Rai have been selected in place of S V Sunil and Bharat Minz.

Following is the squad: Goal Keepers: Bharat Chetri, Baljit Singh; Defenders: Dilip Tirkey, William Xalco, V Raghunath, Diwakar Ram; Midfielders: Gurbaj Singh, Bimal Lakra, Sardara Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey (Capt), Vikram Kanth; Forwards: Rajpal Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Bharat Chikkara and Ajitesh Rai.

Coach: Joaquim Carvalho.

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