News emerged that the Indian Hockey team coach Paul van Ass was set to be fired after the Hockey World League semi-finals ended in a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Great Britain. Spaniard Jose Brasa, who was the chief coach of the Indian team in 2010, spoke out against this decision saying that Hockey India and the Sports Authority of India use coaches as puppets, moving them according to their wishes. He has previously accused both organizations of unacceptable behaviour as well. With just one year to go for the Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro, the sacking of the coach comes at unusual time, especially when quite a few of the players have had to say good things about Paul. With the games on the horizons this was a particularly questionable decision, one which may very well affect the stability of the team and result in poor performances. Even if a new coach is found soon, it will take time for him to implement his ideology and tactics on the team, and getting them to get used to new management and gel under a new playing system will take time as well.
All of this has resulted in the problems surrounding Indian hockey to be brought to the forefront once again. Both Jose and Paul have accused Batra to be quite an autocratic, one not used to sharing power. However, in sports, every top level manager requires a certain amount of autonomy, a lesson which has been learnt by most elite sports nations’ long back. Sadly it is a lesson yet to be learnt by the SAI. The power struggle between the coach, Paul, and the president of Hockey India, Batra, has been unfolding for a while, finally culminating in the sacking of Paul and leaving the national Hockey team in flux.
Rifts happened between the two in Antwerp and there have been contradictory reports by both men about what happened, with Van Ass saying that Batra came onto the pitch during India’s win against Malaysia and berated the players, while Batra claims that he had taken permission to go on field and speak to the lads. The one thing that cannot be denied is that both men have been at fault, and with the sacking of Paul, India has now had 4 coaches in the last 5 years.
Players and fans are the ones who have been stuck in the midst of this war of words, and the team which looked like it could have developed and peaked in the coming months will now have to start from scratch under new management.
Warning bells ring when one takes into account that the previous coach had also left the Indian Hockey team after stating inefficient bureaucracy as the reason for his exit. Similarly, Jose had also left the team after having trouble with the president of the organization. The changing of coaches constantly does not bode well for the team, and this lack of stability has been a recurring theme for quite a while now.
Problems happening between two people in an organization isn’t a new thing, but the same theme happening over and over again is a cause for concern. The Hockey facilities and administration has improved a lot under the current president, and there are a lot of ex-players such as Viren Rasquinha who have good things to say about him. However if the manager and the board do not see eye to eye in the future and continue having such problems, then Indian hockey will continue lagging behind its international counterparts.
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