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Exclusive: India's Olympic hockey hero Sreejesh thanks UAE businessman for cash reward Filed on August 25, 2021
PR Sreejesh was presented with the cheque by Manuel Frederick during an event organised by UAE-based VPS Healthcare group. (Supplied photo)

The 33-year-old goalkeeper from Kerala says he will never forget the gesture from Dr Shamsheer Vayalil

It’s been three weeks since PR Sreejesh walked into the Indian hockey folklore when his stunning last-ditch reflex save ended the country’s 41-year Olympic medal drought.

Twenty days after he wore the bronze medal around his neck, smiling and hugging his teammates on the podium after breaking German hearts, Sreejesh was still in his Indian jersey and smiling from ear to ear when Khaleej Times interviewed him through a Zoom video call.

Apart from the myriad accolades, Sreejesh is also now carrying a piece of UAE in his heart.

The 33-year-old goalkeeper from Kerala says he will never forget the gesture from Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of UAE-based VPS Healthcare group, who showered him with a cash prize of Rs 10 million.

“After we won the medal, all the Indian states were announcing the prize money for their players (in the Indian team), but I never heard anything from Kerala. So he (Dr Shamsheer Vayalil) personally called me and said, ‘Sree, this is a small token of appreciation from my side, you just consider this as a gift from an elder brother to a younger brother’. That made my day,” Sreejesh told Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

“You know, he never said like, ‘okay, you take this money. He told me, ‘Sree, you made us proud’. These were the exact words he said. That made my day seriously because I never knew him personally. But after seeing my achievement, he came up with such a great award. I mean that was one of the best things that could have happened to me after the Olympic Games. Now I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank him once again.”

Sreejesh was presented with the cheque by VPS Healthcare in Kerala. And the function was made even more memorable by the presence of Kerala’s sporting hero Manuel Frederick.

Remarkably, Frederick was also the goalkeeper of the Indian hockey team that won the bronze medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

“That was the beauty of the function because, for Kerala, it took almost 49 years to bring another Olympic medal. And Manuel Frederick was the first Olympic medallist from Kerala. He was also a hockey player and a goalkeeper. So that was a great coincidence,” Sreejesh said.

“You know, when I met Mr Rajiv, Dr Shamsheer’s assistant, he said. ‘Sree this is the best thing we can do to you because if you want we can bring any celebrity into the function. But we thought of getting an ex-player from your sport. So that made the occasion even more beautiful.”

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, the Kozhikode-born businessman, also won Sreejesh’s heart with another gesture.

“You know, Dr Shamsheer also gifted Manuel Frederick a cheque of Rs 1 million,” Sreejesh said.

“Manuel Frederick was really happy and he said, ‘it’s been ages since I have seen such a huge amount’. The entire function was fantastic.”


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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