October 9, 2009
Ken Pereira has played international hockey for 15 years, accumulating 288 “Caps” and playing in top competitions such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup. He is back from Holland, where he plays in what is arguably the toughest club league in the world, and is eager to start the Series of seven matches against India.
Ken, what does India represent for an international hockey player like you?
When I started playing, everybody was talking about the rivalry between India and Pakistan. I remember players such as Dhanraj Pillay, who had incredible skills, even at full speed. I certainly looked up to them for their technical abilities!
Even though they are not amongst the best teams in the world any more, it is still very special to play against them, or for fans around the world to watch them play. To make a comparison with Canada, and ice hockey, it is like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens: they are not at the top any more, but people remember their glory days and they are still popular with the fans!
Whenever I have played India, the games have been exciting, so I am eager to play them again in this Series, especially for the first time in Canada, so Canadians can see them in action.
You have played 13 matches against India, with a balanced scorecard (5 wins, 6 losses and 2 ties). Are there any games that you particularly remember?
The first that comes to mind is the one we played in Chandrigarh, India, back in 1995. I was just starting in the National Team and, coming from Toronto where field hockey does not have much profile, it was amazing to play in a country where everybody knows the game. We played in a huge stadium, the stands were packed, there was intense media frenzy around the tournament and the players, it was around 40C and the atmosphere during the game was incredible. To top it all, I managed to collect the rebound from a penalty-corner and score the goal that tied the game (1-1). What a memory for a young player!
The other game I remember well was during the 1998 World Cup in Utrecht, Holland, where we beat India very convincingly (4-1). It was really one of the first times that the Canadian Team had such a good result against one of the top teams at a major competition.
Who are the players to look out for on the Indian team?
Honestly, I don’t really know the current players. The last time I played against them was in 2004, and one of the players from that year is now on their coaching staff. Currently, there is no Indian player playing club hockey in Europe, so we don’t have the opportunity to meet them in the league.
What are you expecting in this 7-Test “Super Series”?
It is of course an opportunity for the younger players to get used to play at international level. But, most important, we are aiming at winning the Series. We are getting closer to the World Cup now and it is important to send a clear signal to the other teams that we are well prepared. I know that my teammates back in Holland, who play on various European national teams, will follow the results with interest, certainly with more interest than they have followed Canada in the past.
Everybody is getting pumped with the first game approaching. India is ready, we are ready, so it should be a great series!
You are just back from Holland, where you play club hockey. How did you find your Canadian teammates, who do not train and play in such a competitive league?
The challenge for the guys staying in Canada is usually the long gaps between international competitions or tours. You can train hard, but it doesn’t replace playing high level games. In Holland, we practice 3 or 4 times a week with the top players in the world, and each game is close to international calibre.
This year, it is fortunately different because the team played in tournaments in Russia and in Australia during the summer, so the gap was not too long, and there has not been a loss of intensity. I would say that everybody is in top form.
It is also interesting to see young guys making their debut in the squad, including some from the Toronto region. During the longest time, we felt that the sport was going down in Toronto, so it is reassuring to see that they can still produce talented young players for the National Team.
What is the Canadian team program after this Series, to prepare for the 2010 World Cup next march in Delhi?
There are games against the USA soon after the India Series, and then we’ll go to Argentina in December for the Champions Challenge, where we’ll play some top teams such as Argentina, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa… and India again!
The program for January is not finalized yet, but there will be a 4-Nations Tournament somewhere. Then we’ll leave early for India, to have time to stop in Hong Kong, or somewhere in the region, to get acclimatized to the heat and humidity before arriving at the World Cup in Delhi.
The first game of the Canada-India Super Series is at 7:00pm on Friday October 9 at University of Victoria Vikes Field, with the second game scheduled for 4:00pm onSunday October 11, also at University of Victoria.
For further information contact:
Hari Kant, Board member, Field Hockey Canada, Tel.: (416) 428-9068