India men's hockey coach Terry Walsh said the exclusion of some of the key support staff for the Asian Games are "distractions" but his team was focused on doing well in ending the 18-year wait for the gold medal in the South Korean city of Incheon. (Also Read: Hockey India Slams Ministry for Pruning Support Staff)
"Have just heard about these possible issues. Seems somewhat far fetched to me. I can't control these things so I leave it to people who can handle these issues. Our preparations have been very good," said Walsh during a send-off ceremony for the men's and the women's teams for the Asian Games here on Wednesday.
The deletion of physiotherapist, video analyst, scientific/fitness advisor and assistant coach Jude Felix, also a former captain, is a big set-back for the hockey teams.
The men's and the women's teams were also slated to leave for Incheon on Thursday and Friday night, but they are still in doubt over their travel plans. The Asian Games are slated for September 19-October 4. (Read: Hockey India Blames Ministry for Delay in Getting Air Tickets)
"We still don't know which day we will leave for the Asian Games and it is very important and quiet critical. So it is another one of the anomalies but we can't control it. We had some plans but things get changed, they always do. It is part of the system and we have to face it. We cannot get too fazed by these things. These issues are like injuries. They will happen and we will have to deal with it," said Walsh.
The Australian said that the impression about Asian Games in India is that the winner takes it all since only the champion team qualifies for the Olympics.
"But it also doesn't mean all that they are going to win the Olympics. And the most important part for me is that progression has to continue. We are in a good position to do well. This is a tournament where we could do extremely well. The opportunity to play in the final game for the gold medal is there in front of us but we still have a long way to go," he said. (Related: India Will Have the Edge in Asian Games vs Pakistan, Says Shakeel Abbasi)
Walsh feels that from a ninth place finish in the World Cup to winning the silver medal in the Commonwealth Games, the men's team has improved impressively in the last few months.
"One of the really important area that we have improved is the self belief. And that is so closely linked with confidence and the willingness and the ability to play at a level without the fear of losing. You play to win and you also have to accept the fact that you can lose," he said.
Asked whether India have recovered from their problems of conceding late goals, Walsh said: "Teams will always concede goals, be it late or in the middle of the match. The fact is we don't want to concede goals. But the most important thing is are we getting better by putting up a more defensive structure? I believe we are getting better with every day at knowing how to play in every situation. And everything is linked to self belief."
The coach feels that starting the Asian Games campaign against low ranked teams like Sri Lanka (September 21) and Oman (September 23) will prepare them for tougher matches against Pakistan (September 25). India finish their group stage against China (September 27).
"This is one of the advantages of being a higher ranked team in this tournament. And we want to get better and better as the tournament progresses. But India, along with South Korea, will be the team to beat in the tournament. We have to be very careful against smaller teams," he said.