New Delhi: India reacted with shock and dismay after their men's hockey team were eliminated from the Beijing Olympics competition, the first time the former eight-time winners would not compete in the Games.
India, who have never missed an Olympics since they sent their first team in 1928, lost 2-0 to Britain in the final of the qualifying tournament in Chile with only the winner advancing to the 12-team event at the Beijing Games in August.
"It is a very, very big disaster in Indian hockey," Ashok Kumar, a member of India's 1975 World Cup winning side, told Reuters.
DEJECTED: India were forced into the qualification rounds after poor showing at the 2006 Asian Games.
"It felt like there was a death in the family."
Kumar, son of late Indian hockey great Dhyan Chand, blamed the Indian Hockey Federation for not doing anything to halt the slide in the national game.
"It is not one day's story. It has been happening in the last decade," he said.
Former captain Vasudevan Baskaran, who led the team to their last gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, hoped there would be a positive analysis of the setback to find a way forward.
Both Kumar and Baskaran said players should take much of the blame for lacking leadership on the pitch and their inability to handle pressure after India had fallen 2-0 behind in the first 10 minutes.
Baskaran also criticised the team management for failing to make full use of Australian great Ric Charlesworth, who was appointed last year as an advisor to help revive the side and ensure Olympic qualification.
"His input would have made the team qualify," he said.
India were forced into one of the three qualification competitions after their poor showing at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, where they missed out on a medal for the first time.