The six hockey players who contracted COVID-19 last month have integrated with the rest of their teammates and are close to reaching peak fitness, men’s national team head coach Graham Reid said on Saturday.
Captain Manpreet Singh, Surender Kumar, Jaskaran Singh, Varun Kumar, Krishan Bahadur Pathak and Mandeep Singh were discharged from a Bangalore hospital on August 17 and were kept on quarantine for some more days before joining the team.
“They have integrated with the team and so they are doing what the others are doing. They started 2-3 weeks after others had started. They began at a slow level but they are now close the level of other players (in fitness),” Reid said during a webinar organised by Hockey India.
“It is a serious disease and you may think you are fine, but in reality, it may be otherwise. So, I was pleased that the tests were done. It was detected and they were given treatment.”
Asked specifically about the current condition of the six players, he said, “We are doing testing (of the players) this week along with rest of the team. We are reasonably happy about their fitness but it’s still a long way to reach to full fitness level.”
The Australian said he is hoping all the players would have full training in the next 4-5 weeks.
“We are having our basic things, internal matches and will get to full training hopefully in 4-5 weeks. But international matches seem to be distant.”
The national camp for both men and women’s teams resumed on August 19 at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru.
Women’s team coach Sjoerd Marijne warned the players against going full throttle and risk getting injured.
“You have to be patient, you cannot achieve full fitness quickly. It takes long time. You need to come out of this without injury,” he said.
“A lot of hamstring injuries are happening in football leagues like Bundesliga, EPL. If you start too fast you are risking injuries and you may be out for, say, six months. So, don’t underestimate these lost months.”
He said the players will need 4-5 weeks after achieving peak form to be able to play competitive matches.
Men’s and women’s team goalkeepers P Sreejesh and Savita said the players began from the basics and are yet to train at full intensity.
“The first two weeks of basic training helped us. We are are in good shape now,” Sreejesh said.
“It was initially very difficult to adjust to the situation but when we came back after the break, everybody started adjusting and getting used to it. Every player knows it. We know what will keep us fit with the ultimate aim being the Olympics.”
Reid also said that he will speak to the coaches and players of Germany and Belgium teams about the Standard Operating Procedures regarding the start of FIH Pro League matches.