Ticket to London Games important for hockey`s survival: Ignace

New Delhi: The pain of not qualifying for 2008 Beijing Olympics still rattles him and senior mid-fielder Ignace Tirkey on Friday said it is important that India earns a place in this year`s London Games for the survival of hockey in the country.

A member of the Indian team which went down to Great Britain 0-2 in the final of the Olympic qualifiers in Santiago four years ago, Ignace feels hockey might die in the cricket-crazy nation if this time India doesn`t qualify for the quadrennial event.

"It was the darkest hour for us to see India lose at Santiago. We felt we should leave hockey then and there. We don`t want to see that day again. I don`t know what had happened to us, why we couldn`t play that day," Ignace said.

"Qualifying for the Games this year is very important for the survival of hockey, for its future. I am confident we will do it this time. We have self belief. We will give our everything.

"Once we qualify, it would give hockey a new lease of life and many young players will take up the game in future," he added.

The former skipper said the eight-time Olympic champions cannot afford to take any team lightly in the Olympic qualifiers to be held here from February 18-26.

"There are no easy wins in sports and no team is weak. There are many teams such as France whom we have never played. We don`t know how they play. Of course, Canada is the strongest team but we will take match by match," he said.

India will play Canada, France, Singapore, Poland and Italy in the qualifying tournament for a solitary spot for the London Games.

Ignace said the hosts will look to play attacking hockey in the qualifiers.

"The aggressive approach is good for India but we have to put more effort and mid-fielders and defence have to support the forwards. We have to take the opponent strikers at one side of the field and give time for our forwards to join the defence," he said.