The last few days have given me the time to ponder about what went wrong in Santiago and I feel that we could have still made it to the Beijing Olympics if the umpiring was not biased against us.
We were just not allowed to play our natural game in the final match against Great Britain by the umpires and the Tournament Director. There was a discreet conspiracy by the FIH and Great Britain.
In our league match against Great Britain, we received two yellow cards. Our boys were pulled up without reason and these cards were not warranted. But the British were getting away scot free.
Tushar Khandekar was hooked in the penalty area and was floored. No stroke was given, which we deserved. Vikram Kanth getting a yellow card was justified. But the British player, who was also involved in the incident, was given a warning.
Shivendra Singh was given a yellow card when he slipped over there. The British player had hooked Shivendra and no penalty was awarded or a card given to him.
The incident was viewed on the video after the match and the umpire's blunder was accepted by the Tournament Director. But then, India paid a heavy price for these lapses.
After the league match against Britain, the tournament director called our manager and the three Indian players at the ground. They offered to show the video clippings that our players had indulged in fouls.
The same night, the boys were called from their rooms at 11.00 pm and given a letter saying, "This is not the way you all should be playing. You are all international players. How can you play like this and we are warning you. You all will be severely pulled up in the final match."
They literally psyched out our main players. Why did they call Gurbaz Singh when he had not received a yellow card at all ? It was just to put us under pressure ahead of such a crucial match.
Our boys had mentally lost the game even before going onto the field. They were totally shattered. Gurbaz and other players were asking me as to how they can go for a tackle when they were sure that they will be given yellow cards and suspensions.
People concerned in FIH require their privacy and do not want to be disturbed. It is also a mystery to me as to how the hotel management allowed international players disturbed at the dead of the night. I believe there are some new rules brought in by the FIH.
The Tournament Director applied pressure on our boys under the pretext of a complaint by the British coach for intentional fouls by our players. The video replay showed that Gurbaz had not touched any player. The umpire also did not warn Gurbaz. How can the tournament director issue Gurbaz such a severe letter ?
When I queried they said this is something new that the FIH has started recently. But, can they come at 11 in the night?
I also read some articles where Ric Charlesworth said that I was keen to keep him away from the team and that I was responsible for preventing him from going to Chile. Charlesworth had said that if he had come to Santiago, India would have qualified.
It is very surprising, as Charlesworth had earlier said that it would take India five years to get to the top. Could he do it in one day?
Secondly, in Chile, Bob Davidson of the FIH called me up and said Ric was waiting in Perth. The Indian government and SAI had told him that if I wanted, Charlesworth would be in Chile.
I told Davidson "how can I answer this question of yours? Who am I to answer this question?"
When we went to Australia for a few exposure games, I was not even aware that he (Charlesworth) is coming to Perth. Before leaving India for Perth, I had acknowledged his efforts in arranging the tour. Nobody from the Government or SAI has advised me till now about Charlesworth's involvement with the senior team. When did I say I don't want Charlesworth?
I think it is time that we compare these incidents to what happened to our cricket players in Australia recently. The umpires killed our Test team in Australia. The Indian Cricket Board and the media supported them fully. Then, the ICC crumbled down.
Now, the same thing should be done instead of criticising the Indian hockey players. In this case, the Indian people and the media should have supported the players. We should compare as to what generally happens to our cricket teams on their tours to Australia and England.
Were there any instances of a cricketer being called from his room to the lobby at the dead of the night and reprimanded by the Match Referee? This does not happen and should not happen even in future to any sportsperson in the world. Definitely, our boys were under pressure.
When I announced that I would quit, the boys were so upset that they all came to me and pleaded to me that I should not quit. They all said we do not want anybody to come and spoil the composition of the team built all these 10 months. It is just one bad match that we played. They said that if I quit they will be totally shattered and they do not want to continue.
I am going to mention all these in my report to the IHF, which goes to the SAI and the Sports Ministry also.
The FIH did not post neutral umpires, as has been the practice in such tournaments. When they had a European and a South African to officiate in our final match, why they did not have an Asian to officiate with the European or South Africans? They cannot because an Asian will not succumb to FIH to fix India.
(The column is written by India's chief hockey coach Joaquim Carvalho who explains the reasons for the team's failure to qualify for the Olympics.)
Topics : Hockey