New Delhi: These are difficult times for Indian hockey. For the first time in 80 years, an Indian men's hockey team will not be there at the Olympics. So what's gone wrong, who's responsible? Is it the Sports Ministry, the Indian Olympic Committee Association or as people say the Indian Hockey Federation. To answer all that, President of the Indian Hockey Federation, KPS Gill, spoke to CNN-IBN.
Digvijay Singh Deo: You must be very disappointed with what's happened in Chile.
KPS Gill: Absolutely. We were apprehensive of this new system. Our secretary general had spoken to the secretary general of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) during the Commonwealth Games in 2006 that this system will keep some of the best teams out. I myself said that this was a Russian Roulette — you don't know where the bullet is. Well, the bullet hit us. We will keep on getting such results.
NO BACKING DOWN: KPS Gill blasted his critics calling them 'professional mourners'.
Digvijay Singh Deo: How much blame would you give it to the team, because, at the end of the day, you gave them the best of facilities, but they went out and failed.
KPS Gill: I don't blame the team. We have a wonderful set of players. They are as good as any team that has been preparing for Olympics. They are absolutely first-class players. I don't know whether it was deliberate planning or it just happened, that we had to play the final as a back-to-back match, where as there was enough days to have a rest day before a final. It is well known, and it has been well known for ages now that that on astroturf when we have to play a back-to-back match, our performance level always goes down.
Digvijay Singh Deo: You must have had a chat with the coach, the players. Clearly, it's going to be difficult to pick themselves up from this.
KPS Gill: Not at all.
Digvijay Singh Deo: If you could look at it and say, maybe after sometime do a post-mortem, what would you think apart from that are things where we could actually change and get back there, because at the end of the day it's our results in the Asian Games which actually pulled us back, and not this tournament.
KPS Gill: The Asian Games, as you said, is where we lost it. There was actually a once in a million chance of that happening. It happened, but it won't happen again.
Digvijay Singh Deo: What about (coach) Joaquim Carvalho? Because he stood up and said that 'I will try to get this Olympic qualification.' He tried his best, even won the Asia Cup, but resigned. Are you going to accept his resignation?
KPS Gill: He has not resigned.
Digvijay Singh Deo: He said, "I am stepping down. I claim all the responsibility," he and all the support staff.
KPS Gill: No. Don't go by media reports. The problem is you people read each other.
Digvijay Singh Deo: This is what Joachim said while landing at the airport in Mumbai.
KPS Gill: I think You are becoming a very incestuous organisation.
Digvijay Singh Deo: But do you think that Carvalho, his support staff — MP Singh, Somaya — they all tried their best?
KPS Gill: Everyone tried his best. Every single person connected with hockey, except the bunch of mourners, tried their best. The result was bad for us. But a defeat should be taken as a spur to further effort, to further determination, to further desire to put the right inputs, so that what was missing can be put back in place.
Digvijay Singh Deo: But the fact here is that everyone says that it's the IHF which is responsible.
KPS Gill: No. We are responsible. How can we shirk our responsibility? But accepting responsibility doesn't mean to resign. What bloody nonsense!
Digvijay Singh Deo: But there has been this huge chorus. It's like, if anything good happens in Indian hockey, it's the players who have done well, it's the coaches who have done well. But if anything goes wrong in Indian hockey, let's start demanding Mr Gill's resignation.
KPS Gill: That is what I call misconceived and misdirected criticism. Any criticism should be healthy, it should be constructive.
Digvijay Singh Deo: A lot of voices raised were also those of ex-players — people who have played for the country, have been captains. There was Mohammad Shaikh, Dhanraj Pillay...?
KPS Gill: There is a group whom I call professional mourners. So they come up to the village boundary, they are laughing and talking. And as they enter the village they start chest-beating. So these gentlemen are quite alright. The moment they come in front of a TV camera, they start beating their chests; I call them professional mourners.
Digvijay Singh Deo: I have a quote by Dhanraj in which he says that IHF never tried to take help of players like him.
KPS Gill: I will not comment on what has been commented. He knows the truth.
Digvijay Singh Deo: There is also this thing, that Mr Gill has done this for Indian hockey, he hasn't done this for hockey, he should resign. Senior vice-president of the Federation Mr Batra has resigned, claiming moral responsibility. They are saying that pressure is now on Mr Gill to resign. How do you respond to that?
KPS Gill: We have received this gentleman's resignation, we have accepted it.
Digvijay Singh Deo: But as far as yours goes, they are demanding yours. What do we expect?
KPS Gill: My resignation has been demanded ever since I joined service. And that is a long time back, more than half a century ago.
Digvijay Singh Deo: One criticism of the IHF is that there is too much interference.
KPS Gill: No. We have always given the coach whatever he wants. I have differed with the coach, but allowed the coaches their views to prevail.
Digvijay Singh Deo: So this image of Mr Gill being this autocratic ruler... do you totally disagree?
KPS Gill: Totally. Absolutely. All the coaches know. Some of them are honest enough to say this, while some unfortunately have been dishonest.
Digvijay Singh Deo: How does Indian hockey go forward from here? You spoke about the need for looking to 2012, we have the World Cup coming up.
KPS Gill: Whatever we have, we have. We need additions. What is the main addition we need? A training centre, which should have everything close at hand.
Digvijay Singh Deo: Is a foreign coach the answer?
KPS Gill: Maybe in 2012 a foreign coach could be the answer.
Digvijay Singh Deo: Let me come to Ric Charlesworth because there is a lot happening. He says that the fact that he is sitting in Perth when he wanted to go to Chile, what were the actual reasons?
KPS Gill: Well, his contract has not been finalised. And we cannot put him on board with the team till his contract is finalised.
Digvijay Singh Deo: But he was in India for the last couple of months, going around, watching the PHL in his capacity of technical adviser. And he says he was offering his services.
KPS Gill: Well, that is a different matter. The main thing is, his contract has not got finalised.
Digvijay Singh Deo: But do you welcome his inputs? You have had long chats with him.
KPS Gill: I would welcome his inputs.
Digvijay Singh Deo: What about the FIH, because now they have come out with a statement saying that the World Cup scheduled to be played in Delhi, may be taken away?
KPS Gill: That was not correctly reported.
Digvijay Singh Deo: I quote: "It has been made clear that a staging of the World Cup is related to the success of the 'India Project'."
KPS Gill: The India Project is going on.
Digvijay Singh Deo: The FIH says there is a delay in implementation.
KPS Gill: There was delay in implementation, but that can be expedited. There is no difficulty in that.
Digvijay Singh Deo: So you are saying that there is no problem with the hosting of the 2010 World Cup?
KPS Gill: I don't think there will be a problem.
Digvijay Singh Deo: Thanks a lot.