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Germany find home support in Punjab

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS,

Chandigarh : Olympics champion Germany are still searching for a win in the Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament. But their poor form has not dampened the spirit of German fans who are rooting for their team in every match.

Germany have fielded an experimental side in the tournament with only four players from the victorious Olympics squad. They have lost two and drawn two matches in the tournament so far.

Nearly 15 Germans are coming to see their team play at the Sector 42 hockey stadium. Most of them work in Groz-Beckert Asia, a multinational company based here.

“I am here to support my team. It does not matter to me who wins,” said Rainer Fessler, who lives in Chandigarh with his family.

“I am still hoping that Germany would bounce back. If we manage to win the next two games with a big margin, then we can qualify for the finals,” Fessler told IANS.

Fessler’s wife Kissinger said: “Germany is the best team in the world. I think the boys are facing difficulty to adapt in Indian conditions. But they have the ability to fight back from any situation.”

Jochen Schwarz, who has lived in Chandigarh for two years, believes that the absence of star players in the squad is affecting its performance.

“Our team has not performed to its potential and up to our expectations. It could be because they have not come in full strength. The team management is giving a chance to young players keeping in mind the coming important tournaments.”

Schwarz admits that though the German hockey team is one of the best in the world, they do not enjoy a huge fan following back home.

“In our country we have no fanfare for hockey as most people are busy following football and tennis. In India the situation is different, people love hockey and come out in huge numbers to see the matches,” he said.

Every day over 15,000 spectators fill the stadium to see top international teams like Germany, Holland, New Zealand and host India compete.

Another German hockey aficionado is Andreas Schmitz, a Chandigarh resident for five years. He said: “I am a motor sport fan. But it is rare that our own national team is playing in the city. So I do not want to miss this opportunity to see them.”

He was all praise for the Indian fans.

“I must salute Indian fans. They show great reverence to our national anthem by standing up when it is played. We also like the melody of the Indian national anthem and have unbound respect for it,” he stated.

Even the German players are thrilled to see so many people watching the matches.

“I am amazed to see the maddening crowd in India. We are delighted to see our own countrymen among the spectators holding our flag. In Germany we have very few spectators for hockey,” said German mid-fielder Otto.