New Delhi:Yet to get over the shock of the most disappointing day of his career, a shattered Dilip Tirkey still cannot believe that the Indian hockey team has not qualified for the Olympics.
The three-time Olympian, who missed out on a rare record of being only the fourth player from the country to have played in four Games, said the Chile debacle was the worst day in his 12-year-old international career.
"It is still difficult to accept that we have not qualified for the Olympics. March 9 was the most disappointing day of my career, worse than the loss to Poland that denied us a semifinal berth in the 2000 Sydney Games," Tirkey told PTI in an interview.
"More than my own record, it hurts to see the country sit out of the Olympics," he said.
Asserting that the team was tuned up well for the qualifiers, the former India captain said one bad day threw the side out of the Olympics.
"We had defeated England on two earlier occasions and were confident of beating them (in the final).
"The team had improved and shaped up well. It was just one bad day in the last 10 months. It was a horrible day, nothing went right for us. The whole team played badly.
"In the first half, the going was not good for us and we thought to turn things around in the second. But then came the two yellow cards which left us helpless," he said.
The seasoned full back said repeated reprimands of the Indian players by the tournament committee did not help the team.
"Today, no player can claim that he plays a 100 per cent clean game. In the final, the decisions were a bit harsh.
Especially, in case of Prabhjot (Singh) I feel a green card would have been enough. It was a big setback for the team.
"Besides, the tournament committee reprimanding Gurbaj Singh late in the night (during the qualifiers) was another factor. It played on the minds of the players," he said.
A veteran of 369 international matches, Tirkey praised the Indian Hockey Federation for backing the players after the debacle.
"We were all heart-broken. IHF President K P S Gill called up after the match and consoled the demoralised players," he said.
Tirkey said he would take a longer break to recover from the mental and physical exhaustion before plunging into action once again.