Since the early hours of August 5, scores of people including media personnel have been thronging to the village of Kizhakkambalam in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. Their aim — the house of PR Sreejesh, goalkeeper and former captain of India’s men’s hockey team which defeated Germany to win an Olympic bronze medal for the country. Without fail, all of them who landed at Sreejesh’s hometown were guided to his house through the ‘Olympian Sreejesh Road’, which was named to honour the star hockey player from the state. It was reportedly in 2014 that the Kerala government honoured Sreejesh by naming the bypass road passing along his house in Kizhakkambalam, after India’s hockey team won a gold medal in the 2014 Asian Games. In the Incheon Asian Games match against Pakistan, India won the gold medal winning 4-2 goals, securing a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympics.
(Image credit: Martin JP / Twitter)
On Thursday, as Sreejesh blocked Germany’s last hit, paving the way for India’s historic victory, by winning an Olympic medal in hockey after 41 long years, those who had been holding their breath in front of the television in Sreejesh’s house broke into a jubilant celebration. The match had everyone at the edge of their seat with Sreejesh successfully fending off goals by Germany. India won 5-4 with Germany. At the last minute, Germany managed to secure a penalty, following which Sreejesh blocked the opponent’s hit, paving the way for India’s victory.
In the visuals from his house, his family members, friends and others were seen celebrating the moment by distributing sweets and lighting firecrackers. It was in 1980 that an Indian hockey team previously won an Olympic gold medal. This is the third time PR Sreejesh has been contesting in Olympics as part of the Indian hockey team.
“This is a proud moment. We are happy that he was part of India’s team. We were tense till the last moment as anything could happen at the last minute. But we won. We are thankful to everyone,” Raveendran, Sreejesh’s father, told Manorama News. Speaking to the media, Sreejesh’s wife Aneeshya also expressed her happiness. “It was his great wish to win an Olympic medal for the country. We are so much proud of the Indian team who put their best effort,” she said.
Sreejesh has been a cornerstone of India's hockey team for many years. He is the first hockey player from Kerala to win the Arjuna Award, India’s top award given to sportspersons. Sreejesh made his debut with the Indian junior hockey team in 2006 at the South Asian Games held in Colombo. In the 2008 Junior Asia Cup, he was awarded the title ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’. India won a gold medal in that match. Following this, he has showcased brilliant performances in many important matches for the country including the 2014 Asian Games and in the Hockey World League.