New Delhi: That the Indian hockey team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years has now spawned the usual blame-game between players and selectors alike.
While coach Joaquim Carvalho said that the Hockey Federation needed to sort out some issues, he acknowledged his team’s failures.
"We played to just 50 per cent of potential. Our defence made a silly mistake in the very first minute that led to a goal and another error on the flanks resulted in a second goal against us. We could not recover from these setbacks. It was like we losing the match rather than Britain winning. They capitalised on their chances and we did not,” he said.
The hockey team’s manager, R K Shetty also accepted that the team did not play well in the crunch game.
“We did not play well today and it was not our day. They (the players) are feeling very, very bad, they are emotionally upset. After all it was a big tournament, a qualifier,” Shetty told CNN-IBN. “Everyone tried hard but unfortunately, it was not our day.”
Shetty said that they had been playing well and that the Indian team had been touted as the favourite for the qualifier. But somehow, the game did not come through, he said.
Offering a clumsy palliative, Shetty said, “This is the first time India has been disqualified, it is not that every year, every Olympics this happens.”
Former captain Vasudevan Bhaskaran, who led the team to their last gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, says he was not impressed with what he saw on the field. Acknowledging that the players could have been under pressure, Bhaskaran said, “The problem was there were no leadership qualities. We were down with two goals in 10 minutes.”
Bhaskaran pointed to the mid-field confusion in the field and poor defence and stated that the coach’s resigning was no solution.
“I pity Joaquim because he has done the best he could. India has not played well,” he said.
Meanwhile, former and current hockey players have been very vocal in pointing out flaws not just in Sunday’s match but also the way Indian hockey is governed.
Former Olympian Pargat Singh acknowledged that though there is potential in Indian hockey, the game needs to rebuild itself.
“We have a very weak domestic circuit, we have limited players of international calibre and that’s affecting us,” he said.
But he felt the authorities were to blame, as well. IHF always acts deaf and dumb, he said.
“They are not bothered about bringing about any changes,” he said and joined other voices clamouring for K P S Gill’s exit.
Former hockey player Ashok Kumar, son of late hockey great Major Dhyan Chand, too, feels a number of factors were responsible.
"It’s a collective failure of the Indian Hockey Federation, the Ministry of Sports and hockey players,” he said.
Meanwhile, Indian Hockey Federation’s Vice-President Narendra Batra has accepted responsibility for the loss.
“I personally take the blame because I have not been able to do anything for hockey,” said Batra.
But he went on to lay the blame on K P S Gill and said the team is literally picked by Gill’s security officer.
“Mr K P S Gill is hardly in Delhi, he is in Mathura most of the time. The team is actually being selected by Mr Suresh Sharma, who is the security officer for Mr K P S Gill,” he stated.
Batra absolved K Jothikumaran of blame, saying that the IHF Secretary and Gill were not even on talking terms.
He said that the rot started at the very top and declared that the IHF never took hockey seriously
“The selection committee is a farce - it's on paper only. No selections are done. Eight or 10 people come on merit and balance - two from you, two from me, two from other people - that is how the teams are selected nowadays,” Batra revealed.
“I feel that government takes over this hockey federation and run it through good sportsmen, who are above board, and some administrators from the government's side, and take it over for the next 10 years to get hockey back on track.”
Former Olympian Viren Rasquinha has laid the blame on the authorities and a faulty domestic system.
“For me, the two biggest factors are the lack of infrastructure in our country, especially with the advent of astroturf. Probably, in the entire country there are 15-20 astroturfs with the result that kids do not get the chance to play on astroturf.
“Secondly is the poor coaching and poor domestic structure at the grass-roots level. It's going to be really hard on us to sustain a good national team,” he said.
Rasquinha is especially worried about the morale of the boys
“At this stage, it is really easy to play the blame-game and blame the players and say that they played poorly but I really for their mental state and we must do something to take care of these guys otherwise it is going to be very, very hard for them to get back to hockey at the highest level.
“We must realise that emotionally, these guys are in their early twenties, they still have got a long hockey career ahead of them,” he noted and added, “Forget gold medals growing on trees, it is going to be tough to even qualify for any major tournament in the future.”
“Great Britain definitely deserved to win and India were lucky they did not take at least six goals towards the end. You can't really consider the games against Mexico and Chile because they are not even rated teams - that does not really make a difference. You've got to show your class in the big crunch games like the game today. I thought India played very poorly right from the start,” Rasquinha said. “We just did not show any composure, there was poor strategy and total lack of discipline and we took two yellow cards in such a crucial match - that's asking for trouble.”
Rasquinha also called for paying more attention to building up the game instead of playing a blame-game.
“At this point of time, we should not be blaming any individuals. A collective responsibility has to be taken from the players to the coaches to the administrators and we must swallow our ego and learn from others and unless we really make a commitment to improve ourselves, we are going to stagnate and get left behind in world hockey,” he said.