Hockey : What went Wrong?
Intro : It’s just a year left for the Rio Olympics and Indian hockey continues to be in the news for wrong reasons.
Hockey, a sport of pride for India in the past has become a sport of disesteem in the present. The country which dominated the world hockey, has suddenly appeared to be on floor. The glory has gone. We are continuously failing to perform and because of that, people have lost interest.In the present scenario, one can hear about hockey in the news but only for the wrong reasons. Where is the fault? Is there something that went wrong drastically?
The recent case of Paul van Ass (former coach of Indian Men’s Hockey team) is extremely disappointing in the manner Hockey India has handled the issue. The officials of Hockey India will have to understand that this frequent hire-and-fire policy would affect the national team’s performance with only one year left for Rio Olympics.
There are two versions of the story that came out. While Paul Van Ass has claimed that he was sacked by Hockey India on July 13, the team chief Narendra Batra dismissed his claims saying that Van Ass has not been sacked. Whatever might have happened between Batra and Van, the ultimate result will be that Indian hockey will suffer because of all these controversies. Indian hockey is gradually lagging behind to other nations. Despite India’s last medal at the Olympics coming way back in 1980, India has now fallen to a world ranking of 9 and failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, while finishing last in the 2012 Olympics. There are several reasons for the downfall of Indian hockey including mis-governance, negligence by authorities, appointing of foreign coaches and ignoring Indian coaches, lack of AstroTurfs playing surface and many more.
Terry Walsh: The Australian replaced his fellow countryman Michael Nobbs as India's hockey coach in 2013
Michael Nobbs: The Australian replaced Jose Brasaas India's hockey coach in 2011
Jose Brasa: The Spaniard, who replaced Indian coach JoaquimCarvalho
Ric Charlesworth: The Australian's tumultuous association with Indian hockey lasted just for 10 months
Genard Rach of Germany
Running After Foreign Coaches
Over the past few years, Hockey India has stressed on getting foreign coaches on board, paying them handsome salaries. The last Indian coach to take charge of the senior team was Joaquim Carvalho, who had a one-year stint that ended in 2008. If we look at the past and analyse the work of foreign coaches, they haven’t done anything good for the Indian hockey. After the controversy of Paul van Ass, Hockey India has again appointed a foreign coach Roelant Oltmas who will look after the team for Rio Olympics. Hockey India will have to understand that importing foreign coaches will not help Indian hockey. The standard of Indian hockey is going down because of the foreign coaches as they are unaware of the strength and the weakness of Indian players. Why to rely on foreign coaches?
Lack of AstroTurf Grounds
Till the early 1970s, Hockey was played on grass fields and Indians were good at grass fields because of their artistic stick work. But things started changing by the mid 1970s when the International Hockey Federation changed the rules to make synthetic AstroTurf, the mandatory playing surface for international hockey tournaments. The artificial turf increased the speed of the game dramatically and this led to downfall of Indian hockey that relied more on artistic stick work. The 1976 Olympics in Montreal was the first Games in which AstroTurf was used in hockey. Western countries like Holland, Germany and Australia have hundreds of AstroTurf grounds. In India, there is one artificial turf for every 2,00,000 professional hockey players. In contrast, in Netherlands and Germany, 260 players share a ground.It is surprising that hockey player in India starts playing on AstroTurf for the first time at the age of 18-20 then how can we expect a world class performance from these players who are groomed on grass fields.
On the whole issue M P Singh, Former player and Coach Indian Men’s Hockey told Organiser, that “Consistent fall of Indian hockey is a topic of big debate. We should find the root causes behind the fall of Indian hockey. We should focus on grooming our players on AstroTurfs though they can perform well in tournaments. Hockey federation and government have to focus on providing proper facilities and infrastructure to the players.
Frequently changing of coach and getting a foreign coach is not the solution. It is not good for the stability of the national side and also it makes it tougher for the players to adjust, he added. On the issue of foreign coaches, he said that foreign coaches generally concentrate on the players who are already groomed well. They don’t focus on junior players. I don’t understand why Hockey India spends huge amount of money on foreign coaches. They don’t want to pay well to Indian coaches. Instead of hiring foreign coach we should prefer Indian coach. Local coach has more abilities to train Indian players because they are aware of the strength and the weakness of Indian players. Instead of indulging in blame game, hockey federation must look within for solutions for future of Indian hockey.
It is better late than never. Everybody is waiting to see Indian hockey again on the heights as it was accustomed to in its glory years. –Nishant Kr Azad
(August 9, 2015, Page 32-33)