All the news for Tuesday 14 August 2012
Shepherd goes to win in Prague
WORLD LEAGUE ROUND 1 IN PRAGUE
Gordon Shepherd, Scotland women`s coach, has laid down his gauntlet for the first round of the inaugural World League, his sole target is to finish first in the pool competition involving Turkey, Czech Republic, Belarus, Italy and France in Prague over the next week.
Although qualification for the next round is modest, the top four out of the six competing nations move on, Shepherd will only be satisfied with pole position by Sunday.
Tomorrow Shepherd`s charges start their campaign in Prague with an opening fixture against Turkey, ranked a full 23 places below the Scots, and the coach will contemplate nothing less than a convincing victory, but he introduced a word of caution. "We certainly won`t underestimate the lower nations given that we ourselves have caused several upsets in higher level tournaments in recent years," said Shepherd.
Shepherd has admitted he knows little about Turkey and the Czechs, and sees Belarus and Italy as the main threats. "Italy will be a good team and hard to beat, Belarus beat us in the pool stages of the Europeans last year but then we beat them 2-0 in the final, while France are always capable of a good performance."
Shepherd believes he has the squad for the task, he has stuck to his experienced players to the exclusion of the junior squad members. "There is great experience in the squad, we are well organised in defence and carry a great threat going forward," he said. The experienced backbone of the side will include Catriona Ralph, Sam Judge, Holly Cram and captain Linda Clement, all can boast of over a hundred Scotland caps each.
But the Scots will have to fulfil the coach`s aspirations without the services of Great Britain players Laura Bartlett, Emily Maguire and goalkeeper Abi Walker who are on down-time from the Olympics. "Players of that quality will always be missed, but I`m happy with the players that have come in to replace them." The new players that have staked their claim to a place in the Prague squad include goalkeepers Amy Gibson and Nicki Cochrane along with Susan McGilveray, Aileen Davis and Nikki Lloyd.
But Shepherd is able to include Vikki Bunce, left out of the GB squad for the London Olympics by coach Danny Kerry, and the VWS Dundee Wanderers` playmaker will provide some drive to the midfield. "It`s a real bonus having Vikki back in the side, I didn`t think that would happen," said Shepherd.
The build-up has given Shepherd food for thought, he was pleased with the team performance in five tests against South Africa despite losing all but one of the games, the Scots again won the Celtic Cup beating both Ireland and Wales, while the two games against China, who finished 6th in the London Olympics, were perhaps an eye-opener for the Scottish squad.
The World League is an important tournament for Shepherd, it leads ultimately to qualification for the 2014 World Cup in the Hague.
Scottish Hockey Union media release
SA jump in hockey rankings
Marsha Marescia (File)
Cape Town - The South African women's hockey side have risen to 10th in the latest FIH world rankings following the completion of the 2012 London Olympics.
Captained by Marsha Marescia, the team finished 10th in London, after losing their 9th/10th playoff match 2-1 in extra-time to Japan.
The team entered the Olympics as the 12th-ranked side in the world.
The Netherlands, who won the gold medal in London, entrenched their position at the top of the standings.
The South African men's side, who endured a torrid time in London, remain 12th in the standings, despite winning their 11th/12th playoff match 3-2 against India.
Black Sticks return for Ford National Hockey League action
Twenty six Black Sticks, including eight of the women’s side who created history by making the Olympic semi-finals, will feature in the Ford National Hockey League (NHL) starting on Saturday.
Ten of our Olympians have jetted back from London to make themselves available for their regions as the eight men’s sides’ battle for the Challenge Shield and the eight women’s teams for the K Cup.
Women’s defending champions Auckland look the strongest side heading into this year’s Ford NHL. The Aucklander’s have notched up some convincing warm-up victories and they’ll be bolstered by the return of Olympic stars Katie Glynn and
Sam Harrison. With former Black Sticks Jan Rowsell and Honor Carter leading the side and ex Hockeyroo Kate Hollywood, they are certainly one of the favourites on paper.
The home side’s greatest challenge is likely to come from neighbours Midlands who will welcome returning Olympians Cat Finlayson, Sam Charlton and drag flick exponent Clarissa Eshuis alongside Black Sticks goalkeeper Sally Rutherford.
North Harbour will also give the Aucklander’s a run for their money with in-form Olympic goalkeeper Bianca Russell joining fellow Black Sticks Petrea Webster and Rhiannon Dennison in the Harbour side.
Meanwhile the men’s competition looks a lot less clear cut with Auckland, who shared the title with Central last year after the final was called off due to snow, again the top contender.
Keen to claim the title outright this year, Auckland have bolstered their squad with the inclusion of Australian star Brent Livermore, who will join Black Sticks Marcus Child and Arun Panchia.
Midlands, with Olympians Blair Hopping and Scott Deavin (Australia), will keep the Aucklander’s honest as will a young North Harbour side featuring many of the team that won this year’s under-21 national title.
The Ford NHL starts with a doubleheader weekend at eight different venues from Whangarei to Dunedin on Saturday and Sunday. The league finishes with rounds three to seven, semi-finals and finals at Auckland’s Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium from 25 August to 2 September. Both finals are on Sunday 2 September.
Hockey New Zealand Media release
Black sticks to line up in national competition
Twenty six Black Sticks, including eight of the women's side who created history by making the Olympic semifinals, will feature in the National Hockey League that starts on Saturday.
Ten Olympians have jetted back from London to make themselves available for their regions as the eight men's sides battle for the Challenge Shield and the eight women's teams for the K Cup.
Women's defending champions Auckland look the strongest side heading into this year's competition.
The Aucklander's have notched up some convincing warm-up victories and they'll be bolstered by the return of Olympic stars Katie Glynn and Sam Harrison.
With former Black Sticks Jan Rowsell and Honor Carter leading the side and ex-Hockeyroo Kate Hollywood, they are certainly one of the favourites on paper.
The home side's greatest challenge is likely to come from neighbours Midlands who will welcome returning Olympians Cat Finlayson, Sam Charlton and drag flick exponent Clarissa Eshuis alongside Black Sticks goalkeeper Sally Rutherford.
North Harbour will also give the Aucklander's a run for their money with in-form Olympic goalkeeper Bianca Russell joining fellow Black Sticks Petrea Webster and Rhiannon Dennison in the Harbour side.
Meanwhile, the men's competition looks a lot less clear cut with Auckland, who shared the title with Central last year after the final was called off due to snow, again the top contender.
Keen to claim the title outright this year, Auckland have bolstered their squad with the inclusion of Australian star Brent Livermore, who will join Black Sticks Marcus Child and Arun Panchia.
Midlands, with Olympians Blair Hopping and Scott Deavin (Australia), will keep the Aucklander's honest as will a young North Harbour side featuring many of the team that won this year's under-21 national title.
The NHL starts with a double-header weekend at eight different venues from Whangarei to Dunedin on Saturday and Sunday.
The league finishes with rounds three to seven, semi-finals and finals at Auckland's Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium from August 25 to September 2.
The New Zealand Herald
Sport funding boss skirts hockey dejection
SIMON PLUMB IN LONDON
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME: Black Sticks striker Phil Burrows gets a rub on the head from Belguim goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch during their group match at the London Olympics. LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
Sport New Zealand boss Peter Miskimmin will not have a say on funding for the under-performing national men's hockey team due to a conflict of interest.
Miskimmin, 53, confirmed that as one of three national selectors he would not be part of a review to determine how much government funding the men's Black Sticks are entitled to after a poor Olympic campaign.
Targeting a top-four finish, the Black Sticks were ninth at London 2012, two places beneath their world ranking, and Shane McLeod has also said he is walking away from the coaching job.
Funding for the women's team was slashed four years ago after a lowly Olympic Games in Beijing, and now the men's team finds itself in a similar position. But Miskimmin, chief executive of the Crown's sport entity, said he would have no input.
“I'm very clear. In the four years of being in Sport New Zealand I've never made a decision on hockey,” Miskimmin said.
“I think there are always conflicts in New Zealand, given the size we are, and I don't get involved in any of those conversations whatsoever.
“It happens with other people from time to time but being involved in a sport also adds to my understanding and knowledge as chief executive. It cuts both ways."
Since 2009, New Zealand's elite men's and women's hockey programmes have been given $7,144,571 in public money.
Funding in 2012 went up $1.52 million from the previous year.
When a funding decision might be made for next year is unclear, with Miskimmin unable to be any more specific than “before Christmas”. “It's really hard to say that because of two things. One is that national sport organisations have to debrief and figure out how well their campaign went. The other is what do the next four years look like heading into Rio,” he said.
“We're not going to make any decisions or comments on investment until after we've been through the review process.
“The only comment I can make is that everyone went in with expectations. Some have met them, some have fallen slightly short of them. Some have exceeded them.
“The balance of all of that, and also their potential going forward, will determine what the investment is going to be.
“I think it's a bit premature at the moment to say yes or no, up or down.
“It's a balancing act of having a pool of money and distributing that as best we possibly can.
"We're going to have to make some intelligent decisions, like we did four years ago, and maybe some tough ones.
“We will definitely know before Christmas but we want to make sure we don't rush this process,” Miskimmin said.
Legerton puts Oilmen on title brink
Wayne Legerton scored a goal in either half as Petrotrin held off Defence Force 3-2 to move to within a point of repeating as champions of the T&T Hockey Board Men’s Championship Division at the National Hockey Centre, Tacarigua, on Sunday night. Going into the match, Petrotrin (30 points) was joint top of the table with Paragon, but led by virtue of a better goal-difference of plus-40 to its rival plus-34. After an evenly matched first 20 minutes, Roger Duncan fired the Oilmen ahead in the 23rd minute and five minutes later Legerton made it 2-0 for a comfortable half-time cushion. However, two minutes into the second-half, Anthony Morales pulled a goal back for Defence Force but with ten minutes left in the match, Legerton all but wrapped up the valuable three points for his club with his second of the match for a 3-1 advantage. Marcus James, got a last minute second item for Defence Force. The win carried Petrotrin to 33 points and a three-point cushion over Paragon ahead of its final round clash on August 22.
Petrotrin will go into the match just needing to avoid defeat while Paragon must win, and do so by eight clear goals to take the crown on goal-difference while Defence Force remained third with 27 points and one match left to play also. In the lone Women’s Championship Division match, last year’s champions Malvern ended its season with a 1-1 draw with rivals, Shandy Carib Magnolias. Penelope Sharpe fired the Malvernites ahead in the 46th minute but seven minutes her fellow former national teammate Stacey Siu Butt tied up the score to earn Magnolias a share of the points. Malvern ended its campaign with 24 points, two ahead of Magnolias which has a match left to play against Harvard Maritime Checkers. At the top of the standings is Notre Dame with 31 points from 12 matches, while Paragon is second with 25 from 12 matches as well. However, there is uncertainty hanging over the outcome of two Disciplinary Committee matters involving Notre Dame that has gone before the T&T Olympic Committee which means Paragon and Magnolias are still in with a chance of being declared champions.
Malvern 1 (Penelope Sharpe 46th) vs Magnolias 1 (Stacey Siu Butt 53rd)
Petrotrin 3 (Wayne Legerton 28th, 60th, Roger Duncan 23rd) vs Defence Force 2 (Anthony Morales 37th, Marcus James 69th)
Fatima 4 (Andrew Vieira, Jordan Vieira, Derek Lee, Ishmael Campbell) vs Malvern 0
Teams P W D L F A Pts
Petrotrin 13 11 0 2 65 24 33
Paragon 13 10 0 3 57 23 30
D/Force 13 9 0 4 39 26 27
QPCC 13 8 0 5 59 35 24
Notre Dame 13 6 1 6 24 30 19
Fatima 13 3 1 9 38 62 10
Paradise 12 1 3 8 19 69 6
Malvern 14 1 1 12 17 52 4
Notre Dame 12 10 1 1 51 10 31
Paragon 12 8 1 3 39 17 25
Malvern 14 7 3 4 38 27 24
Magnolias 13 6 4 3 35 19 22
Checkers 10 6 1 3 16 7 19
Ventures 12 3 1 8 19 35 10
D/Force 9 1 0 8 4 39 3
Paradise 12 0 1 11 4 46 1
The Trinidad Guardian
How the national game can be saved
Pakistan finished seventh at the London Olympics. -Photo by Reuters
Salman Akbar is a veteran goal-keeper who made his debut for Pakistan in 2001. Termed by Olympian Shahid Ali Khan as one of the most hard-working players in the game, Akbar has won the 2005 Rabo Trophy and the 2010 Asian Games gold medal with Pakistan. He was adjudged the ‘best keeper’ in both events. Here, he talks about Pakistan’s performance at the Olympics, what the reasons were behind the poor show and how the team can improve.
The present Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) management took charge just a few weeks before the 2008 Beijing Olympics in which Pakistan had slumped to its lowest-ever ranking (8th) at the Games. The change of guard at the PHF came about after months of wrangling from former Olympians and greats like Islahuddin, Shehnaz Sheikh and Sami Ullah. They were further baffled when the new setup took over.
Immediately after taking charge, the new management, under Qasim Zia, set as its target the 2010 Asian Games. It turned out to be a masterstroke as Pakistan achieved the goal by beating Malaysia 2-0 in the final at Guangzhou and were crowned Asian champions after a gap of 20 years. That goal-medal-winning performance gave Pakistan a direct ticket to the 2012 London Olympics. Along the way, however, the PHF faced serious flak as Pakistan finished at the bottom of the table at the 2010 World Cup in India. This had created a serious storm for the federation once again, with former players rallying for an overhaul in the setup. But the PHF handled it well, sticking to their guns and remaining focused on the Asian Games. Even after the whole team had retired after finishing 12th in the World Cup, and a serious meeting with the then Minister for Sport Aijaz Jhakrani, the present setup was allowed to continue at the behest of the minister.
Following this, the PHF began its hunt for a coach and finally selected Michel Van den Heuvel from the Netherlands, initially only until the Asian Games. Michel put his hand up for the job even when many other big names were reluctant to come to Pakistan due to security reasons. But the Dutch coach took it as a challenge and worked very hard with the team – he was a thorough professional.
Hockey received a new lease of life in Pakistan after the Greenshirts won the Asian Games. -Photo by AP
Michel had as his support Manzoor (Jr) as manager, Ajmal Khan as an assistant coach and Ahmed Alam as goalkeeping coach to start off with. Khawaja Junaid replaced Manzoor (Jr) before the Asian games and Shahid Ali Khan replaced Alam after the Asian games. There is no doubt that the confidence instilled in the Pakistan team by Michel and the positive atmosphere that he created were the biggest reasons for our success in Guangzhou. He particularly worked on the mental aspect of the game and conditioned us very well. Michel was such a positive person and always enjoyed his time in Pakistan. I still remember his words after we lost our pool match against India in the Asian games. He said, “We are not here to beat India, we are here to win the gold.” And sure enough his belief rubbed off on all of us.
Hockey received a new lease of life in Pakistan after the Greenshirts won the Asian Games. It seemed that once again the national game would inspire the nation and reach the same heights as it did in the 70′s and 80′s. It was great time for Pakistan hockey and on top of everything, the PHF had achieved its target. So the overall wave of joy and confidence had swept PHF house and the players alike. Following that, Pakistan did well in the Azlan Shah Cup, its European tour, the Asian Champion’s Trophy and even on its tour to Australia.
It was all too good to last, however, as what ensued created a lot of misunderstanding and broke the bond between the PHF and the players. Zeeshan Ashraf who was the captain of the gold medal winning team was sidelined. He had repeatedly told the PHF that he wanted to take a break to give a chance to the up-and-coming juniors but would be available when his services were required for big events like the Olympics or Champions Trophy. The way PHF handled this case and hurt the dignity of the captain who brought gold after 20 years was not a great message to send to the rest of the players and in fact the whole of the hockey fraternity. I can tell you that Zeeshan Ashraf”s captaincy had a great influence in Pakistan’s success at the Asian Games and the way he kept everyone together was simply the best you could ask of a leader. He was the last solid defender and after him Pakistan has been struggling a great deal at the back. After Zeeshan Ashraf, Muhammad Imran, Ashraf’s deputy, got the arm band.
There was a lot of chopping and changing even after that. In Asian Champion’s trophy the experienced Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt and Muhammad Zubair were dropped. There was a change at the top as well and Shakeel Abbasi was made captain for the tour of Australia. Abbasi returned home after leading the side to a 4-nation title, beating Australia in the final. It was no doubt an appreciable victory but for some odd reason Muhammad Imran once again took charge of the side for the Champions Trophy and remained at the helm until the Pakistan-China series.
The national championship was held in February 2012 in Karachi and even after good performances from Muhammad Imran, Waseem Ahmad and I, the three of us were dropped from the Olympics squad. Shakeel Abbasi, Rehan Butt and Waseem Ahmed then went to take part in WSH (World Series Hockey ) in India knowing fully well the PHF’s stance on it. They were duly suspended and heavily fined for taking part in the unsanctioned league.
Just four months before the London Olympics, Michel was sacked after falling victim to internal, dirty politics mostly played by his local support staff. This was the last nail in the coffin. The new team management was Akhtar Rasool (manager), Khawaja Junaid (coach), Ajmal Khan (assistant coach) and Shahid Ali Khan remained goalkeeping coach.
With the new management Pakistan participated in the Azlan Shah cup and finished last. The PHF reacted by recalling ‘rebels’ Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmad and Rehan Butt back into the fold after fining them heavily. But these players couldn’t join the team on the last and the most important European tour before the Olympics in which Pakistan went in with only 15 players. Because it was a very late injection, the players failed to get the visa on time.
This was Pakistan’s preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world. We had a good 19 months to prepare for London Olympics, but in this period the PHF was constantly fumbling, unsure of its plan and what team to send to the Games. Few weeks before the event, Abbasi, Rehan and Waseem were included in the team for the Olympics. Waseem and Abbasi joined the team after six months and Rehan joined the team after a year. If the PHF had planned in advance, these things would never have happened.
Changing captains, team combinations and the coach (just four months before the Olympics!) was totally unprofessional and the whole nation saw what happened in London.
After the last match of the Olympics, Waseem Ahmed announced his retirement. Waseem Ahmed has had a great career and served the country in 395 matches, and was part of three Olympic campaigns. He made his debut in the 1996 Chennai Champions Trophy where Pakistan finished second. Waseem also got the captain’s band in 2004 Champions Trophy in Lahore and in the Pakistan-India series the same year. He was the most consistent performer I have ever seen. Pakistan will definitely miss his services and to it will be a while until his shoes are filled. He should be given a proper farewell by the federation instead of just accepting his retirement decision and moving on.
In London, nine Pakistani players made their first Olympic appearance. I don’t agree that these were ‘junior players’ by any stretch. Out of the nine only Rizwan (Jr) joined the team less than a year ago while the rest have been part of the squad for a good two to three years. So claims of Pakistan going in with an inexperienced side are not true. From the 16 who were in London, I think Muhammad Rashid, Muhammad Irfan and Rizwan (Jr) are the players who will have a long career with Pakistan and as they get more experience, the world will see them shine. There are a few boys from the Pakistan junior team who should also rise to top-level.
Goal keeping is a big worry as was evident in London. It is a very important job and the performance of that one man shapes and influences the performance of the entire team. Pakistan always produced great goalkeepers. Shahid Ali Khan was the best in his time and after that Mansoor Ahmed continued the show. Pakistan still has a bunch of talented keepers, but they need to be trained well. In London, the performance of Imran Shah was well below average, otherwise Pakistan may have finished in the top four. One of the reasons for this was lack of proper training for Shah. Having a goal-keeping coach for the sake of filling up the support staff numbers will obviously get you no where.
Imran Shah’s performance in London was well below average. -Photo by AP
A professional and qualified goal-keeping trainer who is up to speed with the modern game and is aware of the mental aspect of this job is the need of the hour. In our training camps goalkeepers also have to participate in all the physical sessions with the rest of the boys which is totally useless as goalkeepers do not really need to run up and down the pitch. Yes, they require physical fitness but just basic The rest comes from natural skill and hours of standing under the bars. Goalkeeping trainer Shahid Ali Khan, with the senior team and Ahmed Alam with the junior team are responsible for the failure in this department.
They are not aware of the modern techniques so they force keepers to adopt the old styles which are now irrelevant. It is about agility and reflexes, sharpening hand-eye coordination and anticipation. Making keepers run for two hours and draining them with workouts is not the ideal way to go. How you can expect a goal keeper to give his best in the training camp after he has wasted all his energy? Add to that the unnecessary pressure created by the coaches on the goalkeepers which eventually leaves them tense and always thinking about conceding goals. Despite all of this, the talent is there and Mazhar Abbas from the junior team has great potential provided he gets proper coaching. Otherwise he too, will be wasted. The importance and role of the goalkeeper must be fully understood and nurtured because without a doubt he can make or break a game.
Lastly and perhaps most essentially we need to understand that for a player it takes a lot of mental energy to work with a coach and develop a good relationship with him which eventually helps the overall cause of the team. Changing coaches after every few months or after every failure is not the solution. All the coaches in the world work with their teams for two to four years and often times the results take time to show. The coaches, firstly, should be thorough professionals and secondly, they should be given a proper run. We need to understand that if someone was a great player in his time, there is no guarantee that he will also make a great coach.
Team combination should not be changed every few months either as it takes a long time to build a solid unit. A player should not be judged by one match or tournament alone. We need to have a long term plan to regain our lost glory. We have to do away with personal likes and dislikes.
We are not that bad. We can be the best by being consistent. We have to accept that this is the time for us to learn from other teams instead of insisting that our way is still the best. It was but it’s not anymore. As a nation we have to show patience as it cannot be done over night. We have to give players a professional atmosphere, coaching and financial support which will allow them to display their true qualities when representing their country.
I am proud to be Pakistani as it’s my identity and has given me so much. It is always a proud moment to wear a green shirt with the flag on the left side over our hearts. We all should say to ourselves on this 65th birth day of Pakistan that no matter in which department or on which position we are working we will do our jobs with full honesty. Let’s all get together and start thinking green. Pakistan Zindabad!
The Olympic saga and after (III)
By Zakir Hussain Syed
It was for the first time in Pakistan’s history since independence that Pakistani viewers were able to see live most of the Olympic events directly from London courtesy Pakistan TV sports channels. They saw the Pakistan hockey team’s failure but were compensated by watching the world’s greatest sports legends in action bringing home the harsh reality that Pakistan was way behind in elite sports, especially when some of the much smaller nations and even some of the starving African countries could produce world champions.
For the first time people became aware of the reality that we neither have a decent sports structure nor a system capable of producing sportsmen. For me personally, this was the most pleasant and most healthy after-effect of the London Olympics being telecast live. We now have leading TV anchors and columnists discussing an issue which had until now, been a non issue for them. Healthy debates have taken place since then and the point is now being driven home that Pakistan badly needs a sports system capable of providing sporting opportunities for young Pakistani generation. However, the critical issue that emerges from such discussions is obviously how pushed is the government or serious in developing national sports environment which could produce champions. The answer unfortunately is a big NO. In one of the TV discussions, former Senator Enver Beg disclosed that not a single penny had been earmarked for sports in the current budget. As if financial neglect for sports by the current government is not enough of a handicap, the manifestos of all the leading political parties do not even mention sports as a priority.
Even if finances are made available, there is no set up in our system with capacity to deliver. In other countries, this job is performed by National Sports Councils equivalent to the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). Unfortunately, the PSB is a totally dead organisation with two director generals both of whom have been posted here by no less a person than the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Both these gentlemen neither qualified nor had career records to deserve this elevation, one having completely failed during his posting in Lahore Coaching Centre and the other having a service record so poor that even the sports ministry opposed his elevation. Neither of them has the ability to produce original plans for sports development in Pakistan.
No wonder corruption has become so rampant in this department that used to be so clean once upon a time. So the million dollar question is who will bell the cat or in other words produce a master plan for rational, realistic sports development in Pakistan? The onus is now on the sports ministry. They should immediately convene a meeting of all the stakeholders, respected national sports figures and sports experts who could help draw a realistic National Sports Development plan with three separate components viz, revival of sports activities in schools colleges and universities on the pattern that we had in the early fifties and sixties, realistic master plan for producing champions and immediate establishment of a National Sports Institute to produce our own coaches and specialists. The sports ministry should then decide on a course of action to facilitate areas in which we have the capacity, based on past history, to excel. They should also look at a modest plan which was prepared in 1974 and delivered results in the 1978 Asian Games. Separate targets should be set for the Asian Games, the SAF Games and the Olympics after careful identification of sports in which we have already shown results. All these targets should be finalized in one month backed by generous funding. In the beginning, there is going to be a serious handicap in the implementation of such a plan because foreign coaches are no longer willing to come to Pakistan and without them our training modules cannot be implemented to produce successful results. But a beginning has to be made and there is no better time than now.
(Zakir Hussain Syed is Pakistan’s internationally renowned sports administrator, sports broadcaster and sports analyst)
The Daily Times
Hockey India owes the nation an apology - and a serious course correction
Four years ago India missed the Olympics. Whom the nation was angry at for this? The coach, the physiotherapist, the doctor, any player of the team? None. The nation’s anger was fully and thoroughly aimed at Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, famously known as KPS Gill. He was the head of the Indian Hockey Federation, which steered hockey from top in India.
What was the fault of this gentleman? He was neither a player, coach nor a fitness expert. Why to blame him, and ask for his head? Was the nation barked at wrong tree?
After all, he sent the team to Australia for preparation, organized many such tours, gave full freedom to coach to select his team, plan tours and even ignore serving advisor Ric Charlesworth and thus stood by his loyal coach.
Despite Gill performing his administrative and financial obligations, he was the first target of everyone alive in March 2008. The nation went tongs and hammer against an individual, KPS Gill. It was not without its merit or reasons.
For, its in everybody’s realm of knowledge that disaster of the kind we have had at Chile Olympic Qualifier could not have come in one match or tournament.
It’s a collective failure. Chile was only last straw. Chile was the last gateway to Olympics after missing many others including missing right slot in the previous Asian Games.
Each entry gate to Beijing was closed, each time KPS Gill had put different set of coach and support staff and such acts.
It was his moral responsibility to steer India to Olympics. He failed. He was guillotined. He was villain of Indian hockey.
London now is as big embarrassment as Chile.
London has now made us a laughing stock amidst the comity of hockey nations. London’s message to mass (also to market forces)is dangerous of being a hopeless sports in coma. Hockey is quoted for all that is ill of India.
Nobody can close eyes to the all pervading negativity. None can simply consider London is a passing phase like of which hockey has had many in the past.
Yes, London is equally a disaster as that of Chile.
After Chile, the nation was angry. Now, the nation is sad. Both are equally bad, disastrous for hockey.
The nation definitely thinks hockey is dead, and irreparable. It is undergoing a hockey trauma of sort.
Someone in the world is responsible for this, as was the case in 2008 when Gill was rightly butt of anger.
The culprit now is Hockey India, and its face, Narinder Batra.
Again facts first.
Hockey India did not spare any effort in giving the team the best of preparation. It brought a foreign coach; he brought his own physio. Most of the support staff continued from Gill’s era. Indian team had amble preparatory tours, acclimation tours, including a tournament on blue turf, a long Europe and Australia tours and what not. HI even went a step ahead, organized a grand gathering of former Olympians. It even set aside murmurs of appointment of political manager, but went by the choice of chief coach instead.
Hockey India, as the body governing the sport, has done everything possible, and everything needed, to prepare and motivate the London bound team. Nobody questioned it and will never ever. But unfortunately the misunderstanding here is that Hockey India supported and prepared Indian team.
Sorry, it is not correct, it is not the fact.
The fact is Hockey India prepared and supported its own team. The team that represented India at the Olympics is not the Indian team. Its actually Hockey India team that represented India.
No country on the earth will leave out 50 percent of its own players from trials and thus deny their right to fight for a place in the Olympic team.
Hockey India exactly did the most unpatriotic and unpardonable act.
It was arrogant. It asked the hapless players to prove their patriotism, and as per HI, it was to be with HI or the World Series Hockey.
Hockey India in fact lied -- to score cheap points.
Hockey India told us that the FIH is against WSH Players, and if even if HI selects them the FIH will forbid them from Olympics.
But if what happened to WSH players in Pakistan blew it.
Rehan Butt, who scored the only goal of the opening match, which gave Pakistan a rousing start (draw against Spain), the ever-green Waseem Ahmed, who struck the winner five minutes from the hooter (against South Africa) result of which kept Pakistan in the race for the semis till the last match, Shakeel Abbasi, who was definitely the unofficial best Player of Pakistan, are all WSH players.
Pakistan federation protected them, pretended a punishment and went against the so called threatened ban of FIH.
Now, had Pakistan too was as arrogant as India, as unkind to its own stars, what would have happened.
India and Pakistan would have definitely played for the 11th and 12th position. Without Rehan, without Waseem, without Shakeel, Pakistan would not have finished top ranked Asian country at London.
So, what is the message?
A hapless foreign coach – Michael Nobbs knows heart of heart what he wanted -- was asked to select a team from whatever stuff Hockey India thought was India.
What Hockey India think India is, need not be what actually the India is.
An Arjun Halappa, a Bharat Chhikara, an inform Ravi Pal Singh, Hockey India’s own OQ captain Raj Pal Singh, for instance, were not even called for the trial; they were in the Australia tour and overnight turned out be ‘UnIndia’ just because they made their intention clear of taking part in the WSH.
Hockey India was ruthless, and it was unnecessary and avoidable, in rejecting the claims of stars of WSH. Had a Gurjinder – who struck goals in numbers through penalty corners, and was just below 20 in age—been in the trial, the likes of Sandeep Singhs and Raghunaths would have come under pressure, and the pressure of that type would have turned them deliverers rather than automatic choices which they have had become ultimately in London, and because of that complacency had no compulsion to deliver.
Loyalty was the yardstick for the Hockey India team.
First time in Indian hockey annals, a team was selected openly on the basis of loyalty.
First time in the annals of Indian hockey we did not win a single match in the Olympics.
Don’t you think both are directly related?
Strictly speaking, both are directly proportional.
Now one might tend to raise the query: How do you sure India would have fared better had an Arjun, a Raj Pal, a Ravi Pal is included?
I have two answers
Firstly, we would not have won the Gold, but they would have done as much as Pakistan against what Rehan, Shakeel and Waseem’s feats.
Secondly, if the players are less committed, contended to be mere Olympians, if they don’t have even basics correct – all views put forth by none other than chief coach Michael Nobbs himself – its all result of wrong premise by which the London team had been selected.
One can easily make out this: By going by loyalty as the sole criterion of team selection – Hockey India has exposed itself as a body of arrogance, a body that lacked compassion for contemporary players and deprived national coach of full look at the national talent resources. Under the given condition, it would have been surprise had India fared anything better than what it ultimately did.
Don’t you think Hockey India owes an apology to the nation?
Has it not committed a crime on present players because of which it brought a humiliation of unheard of magnitude on the world stage as big and significant as Olympics?
Everybody design for success, Hockey India by design led India to fall. Its intentions were not sincere, action was not honest, priority was success, was unbecoming of a national body.
Sports governance is not merely organizing preparatory tours and filling slots. Its sincerity, its honesty, its purposefulness, it is total commitment. Then leave players to what they are expected of.
Here is a case where both – organization and its loyal players, loathe and mundane – collectively let the nation down.
First step therefore before reconstruction and resurrection process commence, is not any Inquiry Committee, as is being planned, but a sincere apology from Hockey India to public, and a assurance it will not fiddle with players' any more in their quest for chair.
Without which all other actions will be construed mere knee jerk reactions -- to buy time.
If Gill deserved national humiliation -- dissolution of IHF etc -- for not taking hockey to the Olympics, Hockey India as an organization deserves equal punishment for seeing India at the bottom of the table when every sport in India is looking up.
Hockey India should not preempt with lip apology and then go business as usual. It has to drastically make a course correction -- come what may I will not harm any Indian player, and stand up to safeguard their interests.
When a country loses a war its Prime Minister or President who own up and resign, not the soldiers and brigadiers who already bled on the war front.
Zero out of Six, and how
Manish Kumar, Hockey Analyst
The Indian hockey team ended up fighting for the wooden spoon at the 2012 London Olympics. Not an unfamilar sight altogether except that before the event, there was unprecedented media hype this time. Manish Kumar dissects what went wrong for the Indian hockey team in their five league matches.
VS NETHERLANDS, lost 2-3
We were nearly there! Really? Many Indian experts felt that the Indians played well in the second half and almost scared the Dutch to death. Replay India’s previous experience in the Olympic Games since 1984, and you have gutting stories of ‘nearly made it’ and ‘narrowly missed it’. Imagine if Bolt was mico-seconds behind Blake! It was bound to be tough against the innovative Dutch side and the Indians managed to score twice, which cleared the air about their intention after the intial setbacks. But what about the blatant absence of basic skills – poor trapping, hitting, passing and finishing? Some blame the Australian coach Nobbs for the lack of it. Frankly, you’d expect the players to thrash out their basic skills themselves. The National camp is for honing strategy and learning to deal with the pressure at the top. Surely, Nobbs needs to explain this one.
VS NEW ZEALAND; lost 1-3
Why the shocked look? Former Indian star Jagbir Singh predicted a tough match, recalling the 1-5 loss in the Azlan Shah. Most Indian hockey fans, however, shrugged away the loss to the Netherlands and said, “Kiwis don’t play hockey. Will win this one”. Turns out that most Indians don’t analyse enough, live on past glory and rely on the fact that India beating Italy and Singapore in the qualifiers was sure indication of good times to come! The Kiwis were razor sharp on the field and were foscused on neutralising the equaliser and then setting the pace; the Indians remained complacent after the early penalty-corner conversion, the forwards exposed themselves once more with more useless running and proving ineffective in the end.
VS GERMANY; lost 2-5
What separated the two teams was that the Germans showed strong basics, and India, err... total lack of fundemantal skills required at this stage. The subcontinent team’s performance was all about instinct and individual skills rather than any structure or a plan for the full 70 minutes. Only Indian fans seem to draw consolation that the match was 1-1 at one stage – lull before the storm in modern hockey’s parlance! India’s stategy against Germany in this crucial match? Yawn… rewind any of our previous encounters and you’ll find the same mistakes – beaten by pace, ball rotation and caught unaware by the long balls in the midfield and defence. This is about practice, practice and more practice. Any coaching manual will tell you that except we forgot before creating the hype – that Indian hockey had cut its roots long back.
VS KOREA, lost 1-4
Where there is pride, there is a way. The Koreans had suffered a 1-2 loss to lowly-ranked Belgium in their last match and played with vegenace against the Indians. They were impeccable with their penalty-corner drills, converting three out of five chances. India, interestingly, had lost three matches in a row before this game, offered a pathetic response in their PC drills, misfired all their four chances and faced their fourth defeat. From NNIS Patiala to NIS Bengaluru,every hockey-playing Indian kid knows that the Koreans are reputed for their speed and stamina – they can run for another 70 minutes after the match. Yet, the debacle seemed unavoidable as the Indian defence caved in under relentless pressure, the forwards failed to combine with the midfield and the disconnect at the finish was…unbearable!
VS BELGIUM; lost 0-3
We tend to ignore early warnings. Belgium was considered by most Indian hockey followers as a “pushover” team despite repeated evidences of their growing prowess. Eventually, Belgium blew India 3-0, making a mockery of appellations like eight-time Olympic champions. Here is how the two teams fared in their Olympic combat: Belgians were quicker than India’s in counters, stonewalled their artistic rivals when they tried to beat them on individual skills, gelled better overall in the defence and forward, and their goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch was simply unbeatable on the day. The Indians made a few pleasant moves but were embarassing inside the D, their defence fumbled under pressure, were loose in their markings and how much can you blame a hapless goalkeeper under these circumstances?
Vs South Africa; lost 2-3
This was a symbolic match, victory here was significant to avoid wooden spoon. India was a dispirited side, and did not show any character again. India lost the match even before it commenced, as it did not have enough mental strength or fighting spirit left in it. We do not normally lose to the African giant, this was also reversed on that day Poor defence, poorer midfield, and aweful forwardline. What else is left in a game? The Indians have to do a real soul searching.
India is not a power in hockey anymore
Rohit Mahajan in London
Our hockey isn't dead, just as our football isn't dead. India plays football and is among the world's least performing nations. India plays hockey too, and we're among the least-performing nations in the world. Let's just get reconciled to this fact - we're an inferior hockey power. Well, we're not even a power in hockey. We don't have a realistic chance of winning a world tournament.
India finished last among the 12 teams. Six matches, six defeats. Eight goals scored, 21 conceded - that's 3.5 goals per match. You can't have a hope in hell if those are the stats of your team. Eight goals in six matches - Netherlands' Mink van der Weerden scored eight goals on his own, for god's sake!
Penalty corners were our strength, but we converted only three of them through the tournament; our defence was porous, as the 14 field goals scored against us show. As captain Bharat Chetri says, our team can't score, our team can't defend. India lost to Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, South Korea and Belgium in the group stage before going down to South Africa in the contest to avoid the bottom place.
Is our team as bad as that? Maybe not, for they did create move and opportunities - but they just couldn't score. Mohammed Riaz, the assistant coach, admits this. "It's not that we were totally outplayed," he says. "We did create chances, but built pressure on ourselves by repeatedly missing them all, in all matches."
This, Riaz says, caused a wave of negativity to cut the team down. "The boys were mentally down and the team's morale was low as one defeat followed another," he says.
Chetri admits that the Indians weren't ready for such a tough event, even though everyone thought they were.
The rest of the world was more than prepared, especially the Europeans. Three European teams were joined by Australia in the top four. Belgium ended up fifth and Spain sixth. Pakistan at seventh was the top Asian team, followed by South Korea at eighth.
Germany were powered by Jan Philipp Rabente in the final as he scored twice to help his team defend their Olympics title with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands. Before this match, Rabente had scored only six times in 77 internationals. Only goalkeeper Max Weinhold had scored fewer goals.
Australia had to be content with a bronze, with a 3-1 win over hosts Great Britain. India was nowhere in the picture. Wishing hard won't change the scenario, working hard just might.
Finally, reason to cheer for Walmiki
MUMBAI: Mid-way through India's Olympic hockey qualifying campaign in New Delhi, talented 22-year-old, Yuvraj Walmiki sustained a Grade Two hamstring injury and had to miss the rest of the tournament. Subsequently, Walmiki spent a few months in rehab and then travelled to Malaysia to play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup where India finished third. But even as Valmiki hoped to get a berth in India's Olympics squad, he failed to impress the people concerned. He was declared unfit and was left out.
After spending nearly six months in wilderness, Valmiki finally has something to look forward to. The man who has been plying his trade for Germany's second division club, TGF Frankenthal, for the past two seasons, has been invited for a third stint.
Walmiki, who began training a fortnight ago at Churchgate's Mumbai Hockey Association's (MHA) newly-laid turf, will be travelling to Germany for a two-month stint to play for his club in the second division Bundesliga League on Monday night.
"I have played in Germany for two seasons and have enjoyed the experience. We have a tournament in Holland next week after which I will return to participate in the German second division league," Walmiki said.
He seemed more than thrilled to be back playing competitive hockey and his main agenda for the German trip is to play there and get back as a strong contender and make a good comeback in the Indian national team.
"My main objective is to get used to the European defense pattern. I want to utilise all that I have picked up in terms of skills, fitness and game sense once I'm back in the national camp and play in international tournaments."
Talking about missing the Olympics, Walmiki said, "I was extremely disheartened that I couldn't make it. But the fact that I was dropped because of injury and not form, was some consolation. Nevertheless, I will work harder and try and make the cut for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
BHA elections successfully held: The 77th Annual General Meeting of the members of the Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd (MHA) was held at MHA's registered office in Churchgate on Saturday. Mangha Singh Bakshi was elected president of the MHA unopposed, while Ram Singh Rathor (129 votes) was elected as honorary secretary.
The committee: President: Mangha Singh Bakshi; Vice-presidents: Bal Malkit Singh Gurdip Singh Chandhoak; Honorary Secretary: Ram Singh Rathor; Honorary Treasurer: Bal Govind Chokhani; Members: Puran Singh, Darryl D'Souza, Mayur Pandey, Mir Ranjan Negi, Vernon Lobo, HC Sawhney, Rajinder Singh Parmar, Mukhwinder Singh Gill, MP Agrawal.
The Times of India
Bisen Singh Bedi: In search of the elusive goal
Only a total clean-up of Indian hockey’s shambolic administration can pull the national game out of the pits
I’m writing this piece not as an expert on Indian hockey, but as an avid fan and follower of our National Game. Yes, hockey is our national game, no matter what the cynics say. At the Olympics, I followed India in other disciplines too, some with pride, others along the expected lines of frustration. But really, hockey made my heart bleed. Finishing at rock bottom was a record of sorts.
Of course, I’m familiar with the winning and losing character of sport. That is what makes following the fortunes of one’s country in an event like the Olympics that much more intense and exciting. Much was expected from our archers and some of the boxing hopefuls. But those disappointments didn’t hurt as much as the hockey debacle. Now, where do we start collecting the debris of Indian hockey?
I’m inclined to agree with a very angry Michael Nobbs that this is not the moment to pull down Hockey India. But then, how does one get to the bottom of the ills affecting our national game? Mr. Nobbs may not be very familiar with the deep-rooted politics of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India or the Indian Olympic Association — he is here on a professional assignment with no guarantee for medals.
My firm belief is that it is the team that makes a coach, not the other way round. All successful coaches have had great teams to handle. John Buchanan and Gary Kirsten readily come to mind. Indian hockey experts swear the best coach in London Olympics was Ric Charlesworth, by many a mile. But all that the Aussies could manage was a bronze, albeit a well earned one. The excuses at London
I watched just about all the hockey from London. It was a delight to observe the commitment level of teams like Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Great Britain. Mr. Nobbs admitted his wards were kindergarten stuff in comparison. The Indian defence was non-existent and so were interceptions and deflections. I’ve heard some hockey buffs saying “our boys play far too much of individual game.” If that be the case, surely some form of individual brilliance might have been on display. Sadly, there was no such evidence.
Another view is that our boys peaked too early. Where and when and how? Let us just face it — Indian hockey is in a very confused state of mind and body. The players do not know which parent to listen to — IHF or Hockey India, two rogue bodies whose only interest is self-promotion, not the game of hockey. It is a matter of great shame that IHF and Hockey India are blatantly and most grotesquely working at cross purposes. And neither the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) nor the Sports Ministry has any control over these two warring factions.
Hockey India was the brain child of Suresh Kalmadi when he was still on cloud nine of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010. Then the president of IOA, Mr. Kalmadi could do no wrong, or perhaps he was far too omnipotent to have any opposition. Meek Indian character allowed every sinister move to strangle Indian hockey. The players had no voice, they have never had any — more simply put hockey players have always been pawns in the hands of grossly power hungry hockey officials.
There is a huge part of me which is willing to side with the players; but never with the officials. Narinder Kumar Batra, the Secretary General of Hockey India, made a public apology for the disastrous Indian show from London. One would have thought that was the ideal time for him to not just say “Sorry,” but own up the mess and step down. Heads will roll, but only the players’. Never is any official made accountable.
I’m told a good number of Hockey India officials were in London enjoying themselves while the team was tottering at the bottom of the rankings. Is there a case here for an RTI activist to ask the right questions and give the lay man an idea of the expenses incurred by Hockey India cronies in London?! From where it is now, Indian hockey cannot go down any further. Or perhaps it can — into the grave. But it could look up — provided both the IHF and Hockey India are banished from the scene. Am I being too harsh?! I don’t think so. Tough measures need tough decisions. No one in the IHF or Hockey India would be inclined to take those. We are all too familiar with uproars after every hockey disaster, and then after a while the national anger dies down and the official caravan moves on. This is not the time for an arthroscopy of Indian hockey; there is dire need for a major operation. We have had far too many ad hoc compromises in the running of this game in India. It is time for the Sports Ministry to rope in some renowned ex-Olympians to discover how to uphold the image of Indian hockey and not that of self-promoting officials. Rediscovering the nurseries
The need of the hour is to rediscover the potential of the nurseries in Bhopal, Lucknow, Sansarpur, Coorg and Mumbai and elsewhere in the country. We need to do this on a war footing without outsourcing our national game to foreigners. It hurts to know the CEO of Hockey India is a lady from Oz — what price National pride?
I have noticed in recent times Indian hockey has expressed the strong urge to follow the ever eager financial model of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). To be honest I find nothing wrong with that strategy, except the governance of cricket and hockey are vastly different. Cricket requires no financial help from the Sports Ministry, while hockey cannot move without generous help from the government.
Money makes the mare go. But that will happen only if there is transparent spending on the actual game. It was recently reported that Hockey India had decided to induct a couple of cricket officials and a TV channel owner into the hockey administrative framework for promotional purposes. I find it all very depressing and revolting — I wonder how long our past, present and future hockey players will continue to tolerate such sub-standard administration of hockey in our country?!
On a brighter note we have to be grateful to the outstanding commitment of players such as Saina Nehwal, Vijay Kumar, Gagan Narang, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sushil Kumar and the Manipuri boxer Mary Kom. We have reasons to be cheerful as the number of medals have doubled since Beijing. But gold remained elusive. Ajay Maken, our Sports Minister is optimistic about 2020.”We can get 25 medals,” he says. Mr. Maken, your self-assessment report is good. It needs to be excellent. Come on, Mr. Maken. Let’s give some priority to sports at the grass-roots level. You are trying your darned best to bring about transformation in various federations. More power to you to clean-sweep IHF and Hockey India in one go.
(Bishan Singh Bedi is a former India cricket captain and ardent fan of hockey.)
What the Papers Say Today - Stick2Hockey.com
Poor Olympic hockey show hits manufacturers
Anju Agnihotri Chaba
Having pinned great hopes on the Indian Hockey team during the London Olympics 2012, the teams bottom-place finish has left Jalandhar hockey manufacturers in shock and are now shying away from openly declaring that they were the hockey manufacturers for the Indian Hockey team. Jalandhar is home to over 70 big and small hockey manufacturing units.
Some companies had sponsored a few players on the team in a bid to drum up business, but it seems their plans have backfired. Sports Forum President Sanjay Kohli of Rakshak firm, one of the leading manufacturers and exporters of Hockey sticks and accessories, said that it was the worst ever performance by the Indian Hockey team and that the blame lies with the internal politics of the selection committee.
“For the past three days we have shut our eyes and ears as people pass comments on us. Now we have started saying that we don’t manufacture only hockey items,” Kohli revealed. “We will face heavy losses nationally and internationally in the coming months. We get orders from several countries but they first see performance of our hockey team,” he added.
Another hockey manufacturing company, Vijayanti firm, which supplied hockey paraphernalia for some of the members of “Chak De India” movie including its star Shah Rukh Khan has been staying away from giving any comment on hockey.
“We had a big chance to transform hockey from an institutional game to a popular one, but we lost it due to poor selection procedure. India could have revived its glorious past in the game,” said Ravinder Dheer, another leading manufacturer of sports goods.
sansarpur: Once a Hockey mecca
Once known as the mecca for hockey which produced 13 players that went on to play hockey in the Olympics, 16 international players and 150 national players and unaccountable college-level players, Sansarpur village in Jalandhar district has very little to cheer about. Locals, who once had a great passion for the sport are now turning towards cricket. “Sansarpur used to have many players in the Olympics squad of hockey team but now we hardly know the names of the players of the present team,” said Gurmit Singh, a village local.
Sansarpur Hockey Academy (SHA), formed in 1926, produced five Arjuna awardees including late Udham Singh Kullar, Jagjit Singh Kullar, Balbir Singh Kullar (Punjab police), Col Balbir Singh (services) and Ajit Singh Kullar, who is also Padam Shree and was the captain of the Indian Hockey team in 1975 during the World Cup and 1976 Olympics. The village had four to five players in every Olympic squad till 1980 but today the situation is quite the opposite.
Villagers even said that the downfall started after the 1976 Olympics owing to government apathy towards the national game. “It should not be considered a national game after 1976 owing to poor facilities being provided to this game,” said a Sansarpur local.
What the Papers Say Today - Stick2Hockey.com