No 'goal' in sight for Indian hockey

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> If you take the big picture of Indian hockey in the last decade the debacle in Santiago, where it lost to Great Britain, was just waiting to happen.

Updated: March 14, 2008 16:30 IST
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New Delhi, Mumbai:

The Indian hockey team was crushed by Great Britain and wiped out by China in the Doha Asiads and and repeatedly defeated by arch rivals Pakistan.

If you take the big picture of Indian hockey in the last decade the debacle in Santiago, where it lost to Great Britain, was just waiting to happen.

This is how we have moved:

Year---Olympic Venue--------India's Rank

1984----Los Angeles-----------5th






So the homecoming of Indian hockey after the disgraceful exit from Olympics might have inspired shock but not surprise.

The coach has stepped down after the latest debacle saying factors beyond performance had played a role in the Santiago debacle.

"We didn't play to our potential and I think, it was one of the reasons, we were not able to play and as a result lost the match. The other thing is one is not being able to play and one is not being allowed to play," said Joaquim Carvalho, former India Hockey Coach.

"I am not giving any lame excuses, but I felt and so did all the boys that the cards that were given in the two matches especially with Great Britain, in both the matches were forced to play with 10 players for nearly 25 minutes for cards which were not deserving," Carvalho added.

Carvalho further said: "Some of the players who were not even given the card were called and issued letters after the match. Nowhere in international hockey can you warn a player that without even earning a card in the previous match, that if you do this, you will be pulled up. So definitely, the player will be under pressure."

Joaquim Carvalho has cited reasons on the ground that led to the defeat, factors that an experienced hand could have helped handle.

But someone like celebrated coach Ric Charlesworth, our Technical Director was not given a ticket to fly down to Santiago with the team.

IHF: High-handed?

This is not the only instance of the Indian Hockey Federations' myopic high-handedness.

In 1998 when India won the Asiads Gold after 32 years, the IHF dropped six star players including Dhanraj Pillai because they had made demands it did not agree with.

In fact, during the first 10 years of KPS Gill's tenure as IHF head over 150 players and more than 15 coaches were replaced, giving the national team little sense of stability.

The year 2003 saw some hopes of a turnaround with a win in the Asia Cup but it was victory that could not be sustained. And even in 2004 Athens Olympics when we lost to a mediocre Chinese team, IHF did not see it as cause for alarm.

If failing to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years wasn't bad enough, Indian hockey has now been dealt another massive body blow by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), who are now threatening to relocate the 2010 Men's World Cup which has provisionally been awarded to Delhi.

Change in world cup venue?

In an official statement, their president Els van Breda Vriesman said:

''The FIH will meet on March 25 to discuss further steps to be taken on continuing the project 'Promoting Indian Hockey' and to decide whether to stage the 2010 Men's World Cup in New Delhi. It has already made it clear that the staging of the world cup is related to the success of the project. And the world body is still waiting for signs that things are really going to happen in India."

It's hard to argue with the FIH while it's true that the men's team has failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1928. It's equally true that the team has failed to win an Olympic medal for 28 years now.

One major factor is poor infrastructure. Also, no incentives, not even when there are big wins like the 2006 Asia Cup.

The accolades and the prize money for the victory had paled in comparison to what the T20 Cricket World Cup players got.

"Currently we need to see how best we can improve the performance of the national team. Infrastructure does play a part and that would be more long-term in our plan. So both are equally important," said M M Somaiyya, Technical Director, Indian Team.

"One is creating the infrastructure at the grass-root level so that we have a wider base to cast our net and the second we really need to look at the national team and see how best we can come back into the international tournaments ahead," Somaiyya added.

And the icing on the cake is that the sports ministry has moved hockey, the national sport, from its priority list to the general list.

Which means the meagre money and attention that hockey used to get, even that will be hard to come by.

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