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India set to get new foreign coach

Principal Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The quest for a foreign coach for the Indian hockey team headed towards a positive conclusion with three candidates appearing for the interviews conducted by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Hockey India (HI) here on Tuesday.

Reputed Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans, former Dutch star Jacques Brinkman and Australian Olympian Michael Nobbs went through the interview process and made their presentations.

The SAI Director General, Desh Deepak Verma, told mediapersons that they had zeroed in on one candidate and the name would be forwarded to the Sports Ministry.

“It will be finalised in a day or two,” he said. The intention of the Ministry to revive the National game was obvious. In a significant departure from the way foreign coaches were appointed in the country, the Ministry had agreed to give the new hockey coach a longer term and a better pay package.

Mr. Verma said that the new coach would have a tenure of seven years – till the 2016 Olympics – and his salary would be more than that of the last foreign coach (Jose Brasa).

“The performance of the coach will be assessed after every tournament and there is also the provision for incentives if the team does well,” said Mr. Verma.

“Money was never an issue. We have been assured to get the best and not worry about the financial aspect,” said HI secretary general Narinder Kumar Batra. The Government wants the coach to take over as soon as possible.

Front-runner

Nobbs, according to sources, was the front-runner since Australia had a strong system of coaching the coaches. The first to make his presentation, Nobbs said, for him, it was payback time. “I have learnt hockey in Australia from Indian coaches and I want to give something back to India...Hopefully, we can achieve something good for Indian hockey.”

When asked whether India would be able to qualify for London Olympics, Nobbs observed, “They would love to qualify for Olympics. But we should not think of short term goals. It would be difficult in such a short time. Hope, we can take Indian hockey back to number one position.”

The emphasis on the new coach would be to set up a mechanism to groom coaches. A member on the interview panel said, “We don't want short term goals because you achieve little when in a hurry. We want the new coach to carry his work down to the grass root levels. All coaches will follow the system that the new coach sets because we want consistency and uniformity.

“The coach will hold seminars on coaching and talk tactics. All this will allow us to produce a group of coaches who can take the effort forward five years down the line.”

Long-term planning

Oltmans also emphasised on long-term planning and youth development.

“I understand qualifying for London Olympics is important. But more important is to perform with consistency and for that long-term preparation is required.

Participation is not important, winning is important.” The Dutchman was more concerned about the weaknesses than which style of hockey India should play.

For Brinkman, who won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold and the 1998 Utrecht World Cup under Oltmans, it was about fine-tuning things.

“India plays attractive hockey. India has good quality players and they have the technical strength. It is a matter of refining a few things,” he said.

All the three candidates discussed their term, payment and other issues in a cordial manner.

Oltmans is learnt to have asked for a provision of four-member support staff while Nobbs has indicated just one physical trainer apart from the assistant coaches on need basis. Brinkman wanted to make a decision later since he would need clearance from his national Olympic body where he is contracted as a High Performance Director until 2012.

The coaches have been assured a larger and final say in selection matters but the initial responsibility of picking the squad would lie with the selection committee.

For the camp starting in Bangalore on July 1, former international S. S. Grewal has been appointed the in-charge.

He will also be the co-ordinator once the foreign coach takes over.

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