The speculation was rife for the past three weeks or so since the biggest hockey tournament of the World held in Bhubaneswar culminated and saw India being ousted from the quarterfinals by the eventual runner up, the Netherlands. The alterations were imminent at the helm of the Indian men's hockey team.
The heads have started to roll with the head coach of the team Harendra Singh being asked to quit from his post. The Hockey India officials have described it as a fallout of India's "poor" showing in the World Cup.
A decade ago, the Indian men who have more Olympic gold medals than any other team in history, failed to even qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. There was a nominal step up four years on when the team qualified for the London Olympics but finished last.
A rapid ascent followed when Dutchman Roelant Oltmans took over the reins following the London Olympics as high-performance director and then as coach of the side. India climbed to the 6th position in the FIH rankings much to the delight of hockey fans who had endured years of despair. Harendra & Marine since then put India on road to attaining glory at home soil but couldn’t eventually reach
Be ambitious but not greedy is an old saying that seems to define those currently screaming for change with expectations that are unrealistic. Indeed, after the coach sacking drama, the Indian men's hockey team may be in real danger of slipping backward rather than rising up. Even the best of coaches takes a while to settle in, but the new coach cannot afford to do so with Olympic qualifiers at the brink.
The coach-sacking saga of the Indian Hockey is nothing new, we have probably seen the most number of coaches since the turn of the century, than any other team who’s ranked amongst the top 10 in the world.
Cedric D Souza (2001-02), Rajinder Singh Sr. (2002-04), Gerhard Rach (2004-05), Rajinder Singh Jr. (April 2005-March 2006), Joaquim Carvalho (March 2007- March2008), Jose Brasa (2009-10), Michael Nobbs (2011-13), Terry Walsh (2013-14), Paul Van Ass ( Jan 2015 to June 2015), Roelant Oltmans 2015-17, Sjoerd Marine 2018, Harendra Singh (September 2018-Dec 2018). The list of the coaches is so huge that one can make team out of these numbers.
Taking up the mantle of the head coach of the Indian hockey men’s team is akin to walking a tightrope blind-folded, knowing patience is not a virtue that Hockey India is blessed with in abundance.
When Roelant Oltmans relinquished the coach’s position in 2017, he had categorically said- “We all know India is not the easiest of countries to work - especially in the sporting sector because of a host of issues. But in my mind, I was always prepared. When I took up the offer, I knew someday I will be sacked but I was ready for that.”
About the Author
Suposh Sharma, keenly follows Hockey, Athletics, and other Olympic sports. He also has a penchant for writing humour and is an avid traveller