Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was on Thursday one of the chief architects in the win against Germany. Beating Germany 5-4, India claimed an Olympic medal in hockey after 41 years. After winning the bronze medal, Sreejesh described the feeling as a ‘rebirth’. The seasoned campaigner is also confident that this win will help India produce a new generation of talented hockey players.

“It’s been 41 years. In the 1980s we won the last medal and after that, nothing. Today when we won it, this gives a boost and gives energy to the youngsters to pick up hockey, play this game,” the 35-year-old Sreejesh said after the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics.

An ecstatic Sreejesh climbed up the goal post as his teammates celebrated the win on the field. He said that he was glad that the side had given youngsters a reason to pick up hockey. “This is a beautiful game. Now we are giving a reason for them to pick up hockey, play the game,” he said.

After donning the national jersey for 21 years, it was now or never for Sreejesh. And he ensured that India did not concede more goals than they scored. Even though the scoreline read 5-4 at the end of the match, it did not reflect the number of saves that Sreejesh had made. Germany won 13 penalty corners, but could not breach Sreejesh’s wall on most occasions.

“I was prepared for everything today because this 60 minutes is like anything. I’m playing hockey for the last 21 years and I just said to myself one thing: ‘Take the experience of 21 years, just play that 60 minutes’,” he said.

Leading 5-4, India conceded a penalty corner six seconds from the final hooter, but Sreejesh and the defence once again came to the side’s rescue.

“Even for the last penalty corner I said the same thing: ‘Sree, you worked hard for the last 21 years and this is what you want to do now, that one save’. I did it, and we are on the podium now.”