Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
FIRED BY HOCKEY INDIA: COACH
4TH COACH TO LEAVE IN A HUFF
CHANDIGARH: In five years, the Indian men’s hockey team has seen four foreign coaches — Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh and Paul van Ass. Roelant Oltmans, the high-performance director, is currently the interim coach after Van Ass’ exit.
Before Van Ass, the team played a defensive brand blended with the Indian style (of dribbling). When he took over, the focus shifted to attacking hockey, like in Europe.
The Dutchman had experimented at the World Hockey League Semifinals in Belgium and swapped the playing positions of six players, and that perhaps could be a reason for the team’s poor show.
Lalit Upadhyay, who played as a forward, was shifted to the midfield, while Manpreet Singh, a left winger, was moved to the right half. Chinglensana Singh was shifted to the left wing from the midfield. Similarly, Gurbaj Singh and Dharmveer Singh were shifted to right in (from right half) and forward (right in) and Rupinder Pal, a fullback, was moved to left half.
“Most of us played in the new positions for the first time. Had this been done in the camp, we would have adapted. But then, the coach might have had different plans in mind,” a India player told HT.
“If these things (sudden exit of foreign coach) are going to happen often, it won’t be surprising if we repeat the poor show of the London Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games,” said another player.
“We need time to adapt to the training style of the new coach and these changes have a negative impact on training. Things were fine under Terry Walsh and there was overall improvement in fitness levels. He had even introduced swimming in our fitness regimen, which was of great help. Suddenly, he was out, and now again we are going through the same process,” said a player. FREQUENT CHANGES Medals at the 2010 Commonwealth and Asian Games marked the ascendancy of Jose Brasa, the Spaniard was seen as the man who could change the fortunes of Indian hockey. Under his leadership, the team was divided over captaincy, but results kept pouring in. When Brasa started to assert himself, he was shown the door.
Under Michael Nobbs, India sealed a berth for the 2012 London Olympics. Victory in the qualification tournament made him a hero but the last spot in London led to his credentials being questioned. After two years, the authorities realised he was the wrong choice and the coach, who was given a hike in 2012, was sacked the next year.
Next in line was Terry Walsh, who led India to triumph in the Incheon Asian Games (2014), their first gold medal in 16 years. The top finish ensured a berth for the Rio Olympics, but the Aussie didn’t last long as bureaucratic hurdles had him return to his country.
Van Ass, who had guided Netherlands to silver at the 2012 Olympics, was expected to lead India to the Rio Games, but now he has been forced out.
During the World Hockey League Semifinals in Belgium, where India finished fourth, Van Ass had an argument with Hockey India (HI) president Narinder Batra. The latter entered the field and questioned the players over the dismal show, which was not liked by Van Ass.
“Batra sir told us that if we perform like this no sponsor would come for the Hockey India League and it would be difficult to run it,” said a team member.
After the Belgium event, Van Ass left for his country and didn’t join the national camp which started at Shilaroo, Himachal Pradesh, on Sunday.
“Frequent changes will give a bad impression in the coaching fraternity and the best in the business will avoid working with the Indian team. This will have a negative impact on the team,” said former chief national coach Joaquim Carvalho.
A week after the international event in Belgium, I was sacked by the federation. Since I don’t have any business in India, I am not coming back. I understand emotions run high during matches in India, but I was trying different things to bind the players in Antwerp and to prepare the team for Rio (Olympic Games). PAUL VAN ASS, on the current scenario