Taste of In­dia

San­deep Singh talks to Manuel Brunet to dis­cover the ef­fect of win­ning a gold medal in Rio

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

All the lat­est news and views from the Hockey In­dia League

More and more Euro­pean clubs are tak­ing no­tice of the hockey tal­ent in Ar­gentina af­ter the Olympic gold medal, says Manuel Brunet, a mem­ber of the cham­pion side at Rio de Janeiro who has been a fea­ture of the Bel­gian league for sev­eral years.

“Life is dif­fer­ent af­ter the Olympic gold medal. As sports­men, we get more recog­ni­tion since the gold medal at the Olympic Games and be­fore that the bronze at the last World Cup,” says Brunet, who comes from Rosario, where his club Univer­si­tario de Rosario have been basking in the glory of the glit­ter­ing metal he brought back from Brazil last sum­mer.

Brunet as­serts that one big dif­fer­ence has been the in­creas­ing num­ber of of­fers com­ing from Euro­pean clubs for Ar­gentina’s men. “The Euro­pean clubs are show­ing more in­ter­est in hir­ing our play­ers as pro­fes­sion­als,” says Brunet.

“Be­fore our gold medal at Rio de Janeiro, six of us were con­tracted with Euro­pean hockey clubs. Now there would be 12 or 13 Ar­gen­tine men play­ing in Europe. That’s go­ing to be good for our na­tional team be­cause the level of hockey com­pe­ti­tion there is higher than in Ar­gentina.

“In Ar­gentina, hockey is an ama­teur sport. We re­ceive some money from the gov­ern­ment when we are part of the na­tional team pro­gramme, but club hockey is com­pletely ama­teur,” he says.

Brunet, 31, has been play­ing for Royal Dar­ing Hockey Club in Bel­gium for the past four years, but this sea­son got his first chance to fea­ture in the on­go­ing Hockey In­dia League, where he was a late in­clu­sion in the Delhi Waverid­ers squad.

“This will be my fifth year play­ing in the Bel­gian league, but it’s the first opportunity I have got to be part of the Hockey In­dia League. I’m en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence and hope to be back for many more years,” says Brunet, who got a call from Delhi Waverid­ers just one month be­fore the start of the HIL’s fifth sea­son.

“I was not picked by any team in the auc­tion for last sea­son, but was not dis­ap­pointed as I know it is dif­fi­cult to get into the limited slots avail­able for for­eign play­ers,” says the Rosarino, who will get paid his base price of US$20,000 for this edi­tion of the HIL. “It was when a va­cancy oc­curred af­ter a for­eign player dropped out that Delhi Waverid­ers ap­proached me and I gladly ac­cepted the in­vite.

“There are not many Ar­gen­tine play­ers in the HIL. I hope to see more play­ers play­ing here. Join­ing a squad with play­ers from sev­eral na­tion­al­i­ties is a very nice ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

Right now, three mem­bers of Ar­gentina’s Olympic squad are play­ing in the HIL. The other two, Agustín Mazz­illi and Gon­zalo Peil­lat, are team­mates at Ut­tar Pradesh Wiz­ards, who bought them at the auc­tion for last year’s HIL. Maza­lli and Peil­lat are now hav­ing their sec­ond sea­son here.

Life is dif­fer­ent af­ter the Olympic gold medal. As sports­men, we get more recog­ni­tion since that and the World Cup bronze

How come not many Ar­gen­tine play­ers come out to play in the HIL?

“You have to ask fran­chises as to why they’re not pick­ing the Ar­gen­tines. We have shown in­ter­est and been avail­able ev­ery year. I sup­pose the in­ter­est will in­crease af­ter our Olympic gold medal,” he says.

Ar­gentina’s play­ers have a clear win­dow if they get picked by teams at the HIL, al­though they would need per­mis­sion to miss part of the train­ing with the na­tional squad. The hockey sea­son in Ar­gentina runs from March to Novem­ber.

Those who play in Europe also need to keep aside the win­dow from Septem­ber to May for their re­spec­tive clubs there.

“We nor­mally have a break at this time, but start prepa­ra­tion with the na­tional team in Fe­bru­ary. I will be miss­ing that train­ing as I have been per­mit­ted to play in the Hockey In­dia League,” says Brunet, who has been com­ing to In­dia of­ten with his na­tional squad.

“With the na­tional team we nor­mally come to In­dia ev­ery year. I try to do some sight-see­ing while in In­dia.

“It be­gan with the World Cup in New Delhi in 2010, when some team­mates de­cided to visit the Taj Ma­hal,” he says.

Brunet says the Olympic ti­tle won by the Ar­gen­tine men should at­tract more boys to hockey.

“We hope hockey will at­tract a lot more boys now af­ter our gold medal at Rio. The men’s hockey pool is still very small com­pared to the women,” says Brunet. “Lots of girls play hockey in Ar­gentina. Hockey is the na­tional game for women in our coun­try.

“Men’s hockey has to com­pete with football and rugby. Al­most ev­ery kid plays football. I played football and hockey un­til I was 12 and then I de­cided to pur­sue hockey se­ri­ously,” adds Brunet.

“The Olympic gold medal should boost the im­age of hockey. To boost the im­age of hockey, we need more young boys to take up the game.”

Golden boy: Manuel Brunet, right, of Ar­gentina, com­petes dur­ing the men's gold medal match against Bel­gium PIC­TURE: PA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.