PR Sreejesh is one of the best goalkeepers India has ever produced, and his role as captain of the national team at the Rio Olympics was highly appreciated by his players. His leadership on the field has always been inspiring, with the goalkeeper, time and again, coming up with incredible saves to lift the team.
Midfielder Manpreet Singh praised the way Sreejesh always keeps the players motivated. It was his leadership in the Champions Trophy, where India won silver ahead, which also paved the way for Sreejesh to be handed the captaincy for the Olympics as well. The goalkeeper replaced the then first-choice captain Sardar Singh, whose off-field controversies also went against him.
"Sreejesh bhai is a good goalkeeper who has a lot of passion in what he does. As a captain he keeps on motivating us with his cheerful and positive attitude. No matter what the result is, he stands tall in supporting us," The Times of India quoted Manpreet as saying.
Sreejesh was one of India's best players in Rio, but his heroics and leadership still could not help the team defeat Belgium in the quarterfinals. India had taken a 1-0 lead, but Belgium came back strongly and outplayed India in the second half to dump them out of the competition.
Though it was a huge disappointment for India, Manpreet believes they learned a lot from Rio Games.
"We were leading 1-0. We made some mistakes. That match hurt us the most. Our rhythm was good, but we couldn't play at the same level. We were in a state of shock. We all hoped to do well, but the result was like 'how did it happen!'," Manpreet said.
"It was very hard. It did not work out as planned and the whole team was really disappointed as we could have ended with a higher position but we are learning and growing from every mistake. Having said that, there were lots of good things to learn."
India now need to erase their Rio loss, and move forward. They are a quality team comprising some star players, who will all be eager to gel as a unit when they feature during the upcoming Asian Champions Trophy that starts next month. India should start as one of the strong contenders for the title, with the other teams in the tournament being China, South Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and Japan.