New Delhi based freelance journalist and hockey lover K. Arumugam is the founder editor
A science graduate from the Presidency College (Chennai) and a post-graduate from prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay) in Geology and Hydrology, Arumugam has been professionally a water expert. He has taken volunteer retirement from a lucrative government job and is devoting full time for hockey.
Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) patron and Chief Advisor, K.P.S. Gill on Saturday applauded Indian Olympic Association (IOA) acting chief V.K. Malhotra’s decision not to include Hockey India Secretary General Narinder Batra in the four-member delegation for a meeting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on May 15.
The IOA on Friday finalised a four-member delegation, which will accompany Sports Ministry officials, for the May 15 meeting with IOC to find a way for India’s return to the Olympic movement.
Besides, Malhotra, the list includes N. Ramachandran (Patron, Squash Rackets Federation of India), Tarlochan Singh (Vice-president, Archery Association of India) and S. Raghunathan (President, Indian Kayaking Canoeing Association).
“Let me congratulate your stance for not including in your list of delegation for Lausanne the dubious and unethical individual Narinder Batra,” Gill wrote in his letter, dated May 4, 2013, to Malhotra.
Criticising Batra, Gill said, “It is a well known fact that the conniving Narinder Batra has been playing games for his own selfish interest and ensured that the IOA does not show any favourable inclination towards the IHF. Along with the FIH he has been using blackmailing tactics and putting pressure on the government and the IOA for his own selfish motives.
“It was Narinder Batra who moved the courts for the implementations of the Govt sports guidelines and now he himself has been contradicting it.
“Any individual who has no ethics and passion cannot be and should not be allowed to be a part of any delegation going to discuss the IOA matters with the IOC,” he added.
Gill emphasised that IHF is the sole legal National Sports Federation for hockey in India.
“As you are aware, the IOA has given this submission in the Delhi High Court, which also ruled that the IHF is the only legal body for hockey in the country. The Delhi HC also ruled that Hockey India formed in a very clandestine manner is private body and has no locus standi,” he said.
“The IOA website also lists IHF as the recognised body of the IOA and if you recall just before the IOA elections, the Delhi HC also gave voting rights to the IHF.
“We have been functioning as the sole NSF with all the states units affiliated to us and in turn there are hundreds of clubs which are affiliated to the state units,” he insisted.
Stating that he was looking forward to IOA’s co-operation and assistance in re-establishing IHF as the sole national body for hockey in India, Gill said, “We are prepared to assist and cooperate with the IOA to resolve all pending issues for further promotion and development of the game in India provided dubious individuals and unethical people are kept away from the IOA.”
Hockey India (HI) has recommended the name of Indian hockey team captain Sardar Singh for this year’s prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
Under Sardar’s captaincy, the Indian team reached the semifinals of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne last year. India also won the silver medal in the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha.
Strikers Danish Mujtaba and Tushar Khandker, drag-flicker V.R. Raghunath and former captain and goalkeeper Bharat Chetri have been recommended for the Arjuna Award.
Ritu Rani,Saba Anjum andJoydeep Kaur have been recommended for the Arjuna Award in the women’s category. HI has recommended current selector and Olympian Syed Ali for the Dhyan Chand Award.
Michael Nobbs loves it when the Indian hockey team’s camp is held in Bangalore. It has nothing to do with the tropical weather or the 100-acre, well-equipped Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus. It’s the food, more specifically the dosa.
The 59-year-old says this is something he could “die for”: a crispy dosa prepared in ghee, a banana shake and coconut water.
The Australian’s love for dosas has already rubbed off on compatriot Jason Konrath, a former Mr Australia who is now Indian team’s physiologist. Konrath has made several trips to a tiny restaurant near the SAI campus after first visiting it a week ago with Nobbs, assistant coach Clarence Lobo and India vice-captain V R Raghunath.
As Nobbs and Konrath dig into the food, they attract a few curious eyes. An Australian and a dosa? However, odd as that combination would seem, Nobbs and Konrath will tell you they feel right at home—more than any other previous coaches of the Indian team.
The past 12 years, as its fortunes plunged, the men’s national hockey team has seen close to a dozen coaches, including three foreigners (one hired as the technical director).
But the current set-up is unique, and could well be the start of a new chapter. For, with the appointment of South African Gregg Clark as the junior team coach and Australian Matthew Tredrea as the scientific advisor to the women’s team last month, almost all the important decision-making positions in Indian hockey are now held by foreigners.
Clark and Tredrea join the existing team of Nobbs, Konrath, High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans (Holland) and women’s coach Neil Hawgood (Australia). On the administrative side, there is Hockey India CEO Elena Norman, also from Australia. At a time when Olympic sports in India are trying to make a leap to the next level, it’s not unusual to see foreign coaches pitching in. It is, however, rare to see so many experts trying to revive one sport —five Australians, a Dutchman and a South African trying to solve the puzzle that is Indian hockey.
Not only are the faces new, but also the conditions under which they have come. Majority of them have been given long contracts, sparing them the doubts of an uncertain future.
Narinder Batra, the secretary general of Hockey India, who has earned more than a few enemies in his three years at the helm, is clear about his goals and why foreign experts are necessary. Because, he says, none of the Indian coaches has the expertise to take the national team to the next level. The latter have not taken kindly to the comparison, particularly, as they say, they were never given either the money or the long contracts their foreign counterparts enjoy.
Saying he doesn’t want to talk about the past, Batra notes: “In the three years I have spent with Hockey India, I’ve realised we do not have coaches who are well-versed in modern hockey. Why should we be ashamed of learning from people who know it better?”
“I am not here to please anyone,” he says. “When I joined, I had given myself 8-10 years to bring about some change and if I do not manage to do that, I will not continue. And to get results, you need to have the right people with the right kind of mentality.”
One obvious advantage of having a foreign coach is that he/she is less likely to have a bias against a player from a particular region or background, have favourites in the squad, or be influenced by reputation alone.
Batra’s faith in foreign coaches is heartening because Indian hockey’s experience with them, or rather the other way around, has not been too happy. Affable Spaniard Jose Brasa was shown the door though he took the team to a silver medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games and bronze at the Asian Games despite all the hurdles. Towards the end, he was almost like a prisoner, not allowed to voice his opinion in the media. Plus, he had no say in the selection. Ric Charlesworth, regarded as the best coach in the world, had such a harrowing time that he quit even before he could begin.
Regardless of this, if foreign coaches are willing to bet on India, it’s because the country is the biggest market for world hockey and the recent success of the Hockey India League established that.
Nobbs, who has spent more time in India than the other coaches, says “to be the best, you’ve got to learn from the best”. He prefers to look at the “Indian way” of functioning through the prism of humour. A big fan of Indian-origin stand-up comedian Russell Peters, the Australian often relates what he sees here to Peters’s observations. “It’s humorous, the things that are not necessarily funny to a normal eye. You don’t achieve anything by being upset and yelling. The system here is very interesting. If you bring all the parts together, it can be a powerful machine,” he says.
Oltmans, who worked in Pakistan as their chief coach in 2003-04, is equally aware of the “system” and how to make it work for him: “You always want things to happen quickly, but I am a realistic person. I will try to put pressure now and then, but I will also look at what is the best way to get things done in India.”
Each of the seven foreign experts brings along something unique. If Norman can act as the mediator between Hockey India, SAI and the foreign coaches, Oltmans has a 14-year-long experience in top-level coaching and can introduce Dutch-style organisation, which is quite robust in Indian hockey. Nobbs is considered a very good man-manager—essential in an Indian team—while Clark’s technical knowledge will benefit the juniors. Konrath and Tredrea have brought their own unique ways to improve the team’s fitness.
Former India coach Harendra Singh, who was an assistant to Brasa at the 2010 CWG and Asiad, believes foreign coaches can also be used to improve their national counterparts. “There is no denying that we are far behind what the international standards demand. So it is imperative to have foreign coaches. But at the same time, we should ensure our coaches learn the tricks of the trade from them so we can be self-reliant,” says Harendra, who is known to understand the nuances of modern hockey better than many Indian coaches.
Nobbs and Oltmans are realistic about this. “Look, we aren’t going to be here forever,” says Nobbs. “Roelant, the others and I will develop a system, put a roadmap in place to develop the coaches and improve the grassroots. It may take up to six to eight years but it could be done faster. The need is to focus on the overall picture and Roelant is the perfect man to do that. I’ve a lot of optimism.”
Chief Coach, men’s team
MICHAEL Nobbs cannot stop smiling. His daughter Jamie, a figure-skater, has been short-listed for Australia’s Winter Olympics squad and he is relishing the prospect of having yet another Olympian in the family. “It’s at times like this that I miss being with my family. But the job here is exciting. The fact that I am here, trying to make a difference, makes the sacrifice worthwhile,” says the 59-year-old.
It hasn’t been easy though. Under Nobbs, India had its worst-ever performance at the Olympics, finishing at the bottom in London last year. But, as the coach says, they had an eventful year otherwise, finishing fourth at the Champions Trophy, runners-up at the Asian Champions Trophy and winning impressively in several one-off matches.
Nobbs, who was part of the Australian team in the 1984 Olympics, is considered to be a soft-spoken but tough man with his mastery lying in ensuring fitness and diet and in his splendid quality to be able to analyse the opposition’s negatives. His contract runs up to the Rio Olympics in 2016, long enough to bring about some changes. Never before has an Indian team coach got a continuous contract for five years.
He believes the London disaster is a thing of the past. “After the Olympics, the selectors and I decided if you’ve got to fix the problem, then you can’t keep repeating mistakes of the past. I’m glad they’ve shown faith in me. It’s a long-term project. There are no miracles in sport. Anybody who has achieved success is because of hard work and we’re doing just that,” he says.
* Roelant Oltmans
High Performance Director
‘It took 30 years to fall to this level… We will rise, but not for 6-8 years’
ROELANT Oltmans believes it’s natural that the world is “giving something back” to the country that taught the world hockey. The wily Dutchman was in contention for the post of chief coach of the Indian team two years ago when, to the surprise of many, Hockey India chose to go with Nobbs. They ultimately turned to the 58-year-old for a bigger and more important role—as High Performance Director, Oltmans is responsible for all Indian teams (men’s, women’s, juniors and seniors) and for developing the game at the grassroots.
For the past one month, Oltmans has been travelling across the country, spotting talent at various sub-junior national tournaments. He is impressed. “A lot of people say that we have to start from scratch in India. That’s not true. The basic framework is good and the talent pool is huge. We just have to get everyone on the same page and then move forward.”
As Holland’s coach for 14 years, Oltmans saw the team win the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics, two World Cups, three Champions Trophies and the Euro Hockey League. He also coached Pakistan in 2003-04. However, he admits, India poses a different challenge. “It took 30 years for us to fall to this level, so we cannot expect any overnight miracles. We have to give ourselves six to eight years at least before we will start winning major trophies. I am sure we will get there,” he says.
‘My aim is to have the side play 70 minutes at same pace’
* Jason Konrath
Physiologist, men’s team
AT THE end of a tiring training session, a worried Sardar Singh walks up to Jason Konrath and seeks ways to reduce his extra flab. “It’s not much, mate. Don’t fret over it,” Konrath tells him. Singh may have just a couple of extra centimetres around his waist, but for him and other players in the team, the Australian physiotherapist is the role model. Almost everyone wants a body like his and Konrath, 28, is more than happy to lead by example. “I like to understand what a player is going through when he is training. Depending on that, I chalk out a plan for him and work on his fitness,” he says.
Konrath’s name was suggested to Hockey India by Nobbs. A bodybuilder for the past 10 years, he was the Mr Western Australia for three years and won the Mr Australasia heavyweight title in 2011.
The Indian team’s fitness had reached its peak during predecessor David John’s regime, so the challenge for Konrath is immense. “He did a great job and I’m confident of taking it to the next level. The players are receptive to what I say, which is quite important… My aim is to make this side play 70 minutes of modern hockey at the same pace.”
* Neil Hawgood
Chief Coach, women’s team
‘We can’t win just every now and then, or play well in only one half’
JUST ‘Hawgood’ is the women’s hockey team? Well, it’s improving, says the jovial Australian. The team has not won a major event since the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, and the 50-year-old Australian is under no illusion. However, since Hawgood took charge last year, from fitness to strategy, the team has undergone some massive changes.
“Working with the Indian women’s team has been fantastic. We have increased their ability to train at higher levels. I want the team to not just win a game every now and then, or play well in one half and fade away in the second,” he says.
Hawgood represented Australia in the 1988 Olympics, scoring five goals in seven games. He’s had coaching stints with club sides in London, Queenstown, Western Australia and Scotland. First target would be to ensure the team’s qualification for next year’s World Cup and Rio. Like Nobbs, he will be in charge of the side till the next Olympics. “We are in a rebuilding phase where we are working on certain aspects of the game, with fitness being the key,” he says.
* Elena Norman
CEO, Hockey India
‘Things easier for me with a staff on the same wavelength’
IT’S NOT often that you see a woman CEO running an Indian sports federation, especially someone from abroad. Coming from a country where sports federations are run in a highly professional manner, 38-year-old Elena Norman has made the transition to Indian sports administration quite admirably. “The fact that I had worked here for the hockey World Cup and later on during the CWG was helpful. It helped me understand how things work here,” she says.
Norman moved to India in 2007, when she joined a Delhi-based sports management firm, where she handled cricket-related marketing affairs before moving to hockey administration. The move to hockey has been swift and successful. Norman served as International Hockey Federation’s marketing consultant in the 2010 hockey World Cup that was held in New Delhi, and prior to that, was associated with HI as a foreign marketing consultant.
Along with Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra, she holds the key to making crucial decisions. “It made sense. India is one of the biggest countries in world hockey with a great tradition. I think with a staff that is on the same wavelength, things have become easier for me. Our ultimate aim is to run Hockey India in a highly professional way,” she says.
* Matthew Tredrea
Scientific Advisor, women’s team
Rugby expert to tone up women’s team
COMING from a sport that demands a high level of fitness and physical strength, the 26-year-old’s mandate is to make the women’s team physically and mentally fit ahead of crucial tournaments this year. For long, the Indian women’s team has had a habit of conceding goals at crucial moments.
Before this, Tredrea worked with the Newcastle Knights (Australian professional Rugby League club) for almost two years as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. It will be interesting to see if Hockey India’s approach of bringing in an expert who has been involved in rugby reaps rewards in the area of fitness.
‘India’s talent pool is maybe the biggest… It’s an exciting challenge’
* Gregg Clark
Coach, junior team
Nationality: South African
THIS is the rare case of a coach of a senior team taking up the role of coaching a junior side in another country. But Gregg Clark likes to do things differently. South Africa’s chief coach for close to a decade, Clark took over the job for the Indian junior team last month. “I know it’s not a popular way of doing things; some people would see it as a step down. But the challenge here is exciting. The junior World Cup will be in India this year and it’s a massive opportunity. I also enjoyed my time here during the Hockey India League,” he says.
“India has one of the biggest talent pools, if not the biggest. Perhaps where the foreign coaches, myself included, can help is looking at structured approaches which are more prevalent in modern hockey.”
His appointment was largely based on his exploits in the Hockey India League, where he guided a fairly young Ranchi team to the title. Even otherwise, Clark, 42, is South Africa’s most-capped player and was the national team coach for the last two Olympics.
His primary objective, he says, is to ensure that the junior team reaches at least the semifinals of the World Cup later this year in Delhi.
Lucknow: Five goals by Jasjeet Kaur helped star-studded Railways to enter the quarterfinals of the 3rd Hockey India Senior Women National Championship, with huge 16-0 win against Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu in Pool A at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in the Guru Gobind Singh College, Lucknow on Sunday.
The scorers for Railways were Jasjeet Kaur (7, 9, 19, 37, 41 minutes), Own Goal (17), Binita Xess (23, 44, 51 min), Th. Ranjita (31, 53 min), Joydeep Kaur (14 min), Apoorva (30 min), Jamila Bano (45 min), Laurenua Kerketta (47 min), Rosalind L Ralte (58 min).
In the other match, Himachal Pradesh beat Tripura 12-0 in Pool G.
Goal scores for Himachal Pradesh were Nisha (10, 13, 44 minutes), Sonia II (19, 22, 69 min), Pooja (23, 57 min), Dimple (26, 33 min), Sonia I (67 min) and Ritu (31 min).
In pool E, Andhra Pradesh got walkover from Arunachal.
In Pool C, Jharkhand defeated Goa 17-0 to enter in quarterfinals.
Jharkhand who led 8-0 at the half time scored through Nisha Rani (9, 19, 35, 40, 46 min), Kanti Pradhan (10, 64 min), Punita Minz (12, 58 min), Shilwanti Minjur (23 min), Basanti Kachhap (24 min), Own Goal (29 min), Sabnam Lakra (37 min), Anita Swansi (41, 44, 60 min) and Ebha Kerketta (68 min).
Uttar Pradesh defeated Chhattisgarh 2-0 to make the quarterfinals from pool E.
Monday’s fixtures: Odisha vs Karnataka (6.30am), Mumbai Hockey Association Limited vs Rajasthan (8.00am), Haryana vs Bengal Hockey Association (2.00pm), Bhopal vs Gujarat (3.00pm).
Hockey India (HI) selectors will be picking 33 probables for the tour Netherlands from which the squad will be picked for the tournament which starts on April 26.
The one-day selection trials on Tuesday will be overseen by Chief coach Michael Nobbs.
With the India-Pakistan series called off, high performance manager Roelant Oltmans was asked to organize a tour by HI as an alternative. 18 players are to be chosen for the tour which includes matches with the national team and top clubs, it is understood.
However, the proposal is yet to be cleared by Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“The file is yet to reach SAI. A decision is likely soon,” sources told TOI.
Around 77 players - 33 seniors and 44 juniors, including nine who turned out for WSH last year - are in the camps in SAI South Centre. The juniors are being trained by their new chief coach, South African Gregg Clark.
“The seniors are preparing for the World League semifinals in Rotterdam in June and the juniors are working towards the World Cup at the end of the year in New Delhi,” sources said.
NEW DELH: A 18-member Indian women’s hockey team on Saturday left for Rotterdam to prepare itself for the FIH Hockey World League Round-3 (semifinals) to be held from June 13-23 this year.
The Indian women will play five matches at Rotterdam, including one against Dutch national side and four against club teams, from April 22-29.
The Indian team has qualified for the FIH World League Round-3 (semifinals), to be held at Rotterdam, in February this year.
The FIH World League also serves as a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup to be played in Hague, The Netherlands.
Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajni Etimarpu.
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Kirandeep Kaur, Deepika, Namita Toppo, Sushila Chanu, M N Ponnamma, Sunita Lakra.
Midfielders: Ritu Rani, Monika, Vandana Katariya, Lilima Minz.
Forwards: Soundarya Yendala, Rashmi Singh, Anupa Barla, Rani, Poonam Rani.
LUCKNOW: Riding on Binita Xess’s four goals, defending champion Railways spanked Uttarakhand 19-0 in a Pool A league match of the third Hockey India Senior Women National Hockey Championship at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Saturday.
Goal scores for Railways were Binita Xess (10th minute, 23rd, 41st, 42nd), Amandeep Kaur (1st, 11th, 39th), Jasjeet Kaur (20th, 37th), Apoorva V (24th, 32nd), Rosalin Dung Dung (45th, 64th), Joydeep Kaur (6th), Ramneek Kaur (22nd), Rosalind L Ralte (10th), Asunta Lakra (50th), Preety S Kiro (53rd) and Laurenua Kerketta (60th).
In another match of the day, Jharkhand thrashed Kerala 16-0 in Pool C.
For Jharkhand the goal scorers were Sabnam Lakra (9th, 46th, 58th, 63rd, 66th), Kanti Pradhan (32nd, 49th, 55th, 57th), Nisha Rani Aind (14th, 29th), Sarita Lakra (53rd, 67th), Shilwanti Minjur (3rd) and Punita Minz (60th).
In the third match of the day, Odisha outclassed Tripura 19-0 in Pool G.
The scorers for Odisha were Raina Yadav (6th, 10th, 37th, 48th), Mariana Kanjur (12th, 15th, 44th), Ashim Kanchan Barla (16th, 47th, 56th), Priyanka Ekka (49th, 55th, 59th), Sarojini Ekka (28th, 38th), Sarojini Ekka (3rd, 49th), Rashmita Minz (24th) and Punam Minz (58th).
In the other match of the day, Chitra KC struck six goals to help Karnataka register an emphatic 12-2 win over Himachal Pradesh in Pool G.
Meanwhile, in the 3rd Hockey India Junior Women National Championship held at Ranchi, Uttar Pradesh demolished Tripura 26-0 in Pool G.
Siddhi Singh and Srishti Singh scored seven goals each for UP.
In another match, Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd defeated Hockey Bhopal 5-0.
MHA Ltd scored through Jemima Monterio (36th, 63rd), Ambareen Shaikh (50th), Yogita Pasi (66th) and Bhagyashree Agarwal (70th).
Pool C: MHA Ltd 5 (Jemima Monterio 36, 63, Ambareen Shaikh 50, Yogita Pasi 66 and Bhagyashree Agarwal 70) beat Hockey Bhopal 0.
Pool G: Uttar Pradesh 26 (Kavita Mauryay 2, 29, 64 Siddhi Singh 4, 5, 7, 16, 22,46, 51, Srishti Singh 10, 15, 28, 30, 32, 39,44,Komal Sahni 12, 17,48, 56, 59, 60 Chand Singh 27,Shreya Singh 50, 56) beat Tripura 0.
Tamil Nadu defeat Uttarakhand 4-1
The Hockey Maharashtra and Kerala 2-2 DRAW.
Chhattisgarh got walkover from Arunachal Pradesh.
Odisha beat Himachal Pradesh 4-1.
Uttar Pradesh bt Andhra Pradesh 10-0.
The highs and lows of the Indian men’s hockey team may be a bittersweet experience for hockey fans across the country. The national team touched its nadir, scripting a forgettable wooden spoon finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
The lows were replaced by renewed optimism after the men in blue reached the premier 34th FIH Champions Trophy semifinals last year in Melbourne, before going on to take the fourth spot after losing to arch-rivals Pakistan in the bronze medal play-off tie.
Win or lose, hockey continues to attract youngsters, especially in Punjab, where the urge to take up hockey is much more than probably anywhere else. Youngsters in this neck of the woods have an unbridled passion for hockey.
This was amply evident when over 550 under-15 boys turned up for the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) conducted selection trials at the astroturf stadium of the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) in Amritsar on Thursday to showcase their skills.
The trials are being organized by SGPC to build its team for the future.
According to SGPC sources, save for a few, most of the youngsters were from rural areas of the Majha belt.
SGPC has formed a selection committee comprising of celebrated former Indian captain of the 1975 World Cup winning team, Ajitpal Singh, his team-mate, Brig Harcharan Singh (retd.) – the man who scored the extra time goal to take India into the final, former captain, fullback and MLA Pargat Singh, internationals Surjit Singh Sodhi and Rajpal Singh.
The Amritsar trials were the third selection trials organized by SGPC. Earlier, SGPC conducted the first trials at NIS, Patiala on April 16 before holding the second trials at Olympian Surjit Singh Hockey Stadium in Jalandhar on April 17.
Youngsters who clear the selection trials will be enrolled in an SGPC-run educational institution. They would be provided free education & accommodation, free books, free sports kits and free food.
It is learnt that youngsters would be required to study in this institution till Class 12, and will be groomed to represent the SGPC team in tournaments.
The sheer excitement of getting an opportunity to show their wares in front of some of the legends was seen in the way these youngsters resorted to elaborate dribbling in their efforts to clear the trials.
The selected boys would be absorbed in various SGPC hockey academies, which would be set up at Amritsar, Patiala, Faridkot and Ludhiana.
Going forward, SGPC wants to build its own hockey teams for participation in state and national tournaments.
These three selection trials would help SGPC to set up their under-15 side before they can have their teams in other age-groups.
In Mumbai Mumbai players have had their share of conflicts with the Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA), however, in a recent move to give the sport a shot in the arm, the MHA set up P6, a six-member body comprising Viren Rasquinha (convenor), Anil Aldrin, Darryl D’Souza, Davinder Kumar, Cornelis D’Costa and Edgar Mascarenhas. The move is aimed at preparing a roadmap to restore the sport to its past glory in the city.
In an interview with Mumbai Mirror, Rasquinha, a former international, who was part of the national team at the Athens Olympics, spoke about the level of hockey in the city, the P6 and its role in helping the sport sound the board once again.
Whatare your thoughts on the performance of Mumbai’s subjunior side in the recently-concluded nationals?
The Mumbai team played well, although the goalline may not suggest so. The fact that our boys were inexperienced and had never played any all-India tournament, the performance was commendable.
Secondly, there is no doubt about the existence of overage players. But I am glad that Mumbai is making sure that boys with the right age are playing. There is a lot of talent and potential and we need to just build on longterm development plans for sub-juniors and juniors.
Does Mumbai need more schoollevel tournaments?
There are enough inter-school tournaments. But, the overall quality of school hockey has stagnated over the years. The coaching at school level is very poor as a result talented youngsters are not being taught the right things. The sub-junior team was selected with boys from various schools, but they were really found wanting when you matched them up against other teams.
Where does Mumbai hockey stand today?
The standard of Mumbai hockey has fallen in the last 10 years. And the primary reason is lack of tournaments. The standard of school hockey is weak; college and university hockey is nonexistant. Our leagues are ground to a standstill. Companies and corporates are not offering jobs any more. So there is lack of incentives. In the last 10-15 years we’ve had few faces in the Indian team to identify Mumbai hockey. We had Dhanraj Pillay, then me, then Adrian D’Souza and now Yuvraj Walmiki. For a traditional powerhouse like Mumbai this is a poor output.
Were you happy with the turn out for the recent sub-junior tournament?
Throughout the year we don’t get players who’d even turn up for trials. It’s because of people like Merzban Patel (Bawa) that the interest at grassroots level is kept alive. Partly, the fault lies with the Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA). When I was playing, there were regular summer camps, besides inter-school tournaments. When there is regularity, you will see better results and you’ll see more boys participating.
Has in-fighting damaged Mumbai hockey’s image?
There is no doubt about it. There general perception is that hockey is in news only for the wrong reasons. It’s either for in-fighting or fighting on the pitch and that’s bad for the game. Having said that, I am extremely positive that the association right now is in good hands, people with vision and maturity are there. With the players panel in existence I am sure things will change for the better.
With the formation of the P6, is Mumbai on the road to recovery?
P6 is just one of the things to improve the standard of Mumbai hockey. We don’t have a magic wand that will help the team win the junior and senior nationals and have five players in the Indian team. No, this is not going to happen. But it’s a step in the right direction. Each and every member of the panel has represented India with great distinction. We must fall back on our collective expertise. Till now we never had a platform to contribute to Mumbai hockey.
How much say do MHA office bearers have in P6?
There is a lot of transparency and authority MHA have given us to look after the technical aspects on the field of play. For instance looking after selection matters, training camps and coaching all age groups - sub-juniors, juniors and seniors (both men and women). They have given us assurance that our recommendations will be implemented.
Do you feel the majority of Mumbai players have stayed away from MHA because of its politics?
Absolutely, I too stayed away from MHA due to its politics. I only want to make a contribution to hockey on the field and improve its standard. But if politics takes the precedent, then none of the players want to be apart of it.
Every former player in Mumbai wants to make a difference, they don’t care whether Hockey India is incharge or Indian Hockey Federation is in-charge. All they want is good hockey, regular tournaments and Mumbai to be in the news for hockey and not politics.
Will the players who attended IHF-organised nationals camp recently be accepted in the camp that begins today for HI’s nationals?
Every player will be welcomed with open arms when the trials begin, whether junior or senior. Every single player, it doesn’t matter whether he played for IHF or WSH or HIL. We want the players to turn up and help Mumbai regain its lost glory.
What are the long-term plans of the P6?
We are introducing physical trainers, we’ve got physios. We plan to identify the right coaches for various age groups. We are going to put programmes in place, have regular interactions and seminars with all our school and grassroots level coaches.
The SGPC camp to identify talent in budding hockey players got a massive response with over 550 young boys turning up at the astro turf stadium of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here on Thursday. Barring a few, a majority of these youngsters were from rural areas of the Majha belt.
Almost all of them had a feel of the green astro turf for the first time, on which they exhibited their skills before Brig Harcharan Singh (retd), a member of the 1975 World Cup hockey team, former Indian team skipper Rajpal Singh and some other state and national-level players. Though many knew who Rajpal was, most were not familiar that it was the goal of Harcharan Singh in extra time that sent India into the final of the 1975 World Cup.
The selected players will be offered free education at an SGPC -run institution as also free boarding and lodging.
In their sheer enthusiasm to impress the selectors, many of them tended to hang on to the ball a bit too long to exhibit their dribbling skills.
“I am impressed and can go back home and sleep well with the thought that hockey is still there in India. Some of these youngsters have talent. We only need to guide them and give them opportunities to play,” said Harcharan after watching the young players, some of whom were wearing torn or worn out sports shoes.
SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh and sports director Balwinder Singh said this was the third such trial conducted by the SGPC. The first two were held in Patiala and Jalandhar.
Those selected at these camps will become part of the SGPC hockey academies to be set up at Amritsar, Patiala, Faridkot and Ludhiana.
The SGPC, which already has a kabaddi team, will soon have its own hockey teams in state and national tournaments. It wants to spot hockey talent in villages and bring it forth on the national scene.
The first step in this direction will be the under-15 boys’ team, as only U-15 boys were eligible for the trials.
Besides Harcharan and Rajpal, the selection committee also comprises former Indian captain of the 1975 World Cup winning team, Ajitpal Singh, former India hockey captain and now MLA Pargat Singh and SS Sodhi, another international player. These players will also be part of the SGPC coaching teams.
It is still not clear whether the four hockey academies will be in SGPC-run schools or will run separately.
“Our motive is to restore the old glory of Indian hockey. Through this effort, we also want to channelise the energies of the youth in a positive manner, considering the fact that a large number of youngsters, particularly in rural areas, get hooked to drugs,” said Dalmegh.