IHF sacks hockey trainer

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Senior hockey trainer Sampath Kumar has been axed hours before the departure of the probables for an Olympic training-cum competition in the USA.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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New Delhi:

A fresh controversy threatened to bog Indian hockey with senior trainer Sampath Kumar being axed hours before the departure of the probables for an Olympic training-cum competition in the USA. The decision to show the door to the trainer left the players in shock as they had been expecting Sampath Kumar to accompany them on their training stint abroad. As usual there was no explanation forthcoming on the issue but a top Indian Hockey Federation official said Sampath had "failed to get government clearance". "The Sports Ministry wanted just one trainer to accompany the players. That is why we are taking only Saju Joseph and not Sampath Kumar," the official said on condition of anonymity. IHF's decision to ignore Sampath appeared baffling since he had been closely associated with the team for the last two years and had been doing a commendable job. He had taken charge soon after the World Cup in 2002 in Malaysia and was also part of the camp at Barog last month. In fact two days before the team's departure, Sampath had talked about his plans for the probables in the USA camp during an interaction with the media at the National Stadium here. A different version came to light with reliable sources saying the Ministry had given permission to Sampath to go with the probables but later replaced his name with that of Joseph on IHF's insistence. Chief coach Rajinder Singh declined to comment whether Sampath's absence in the fitness camps abroad would affect India's preparations for Olympics. "I can't say anything on it. You please contact Mr Jothikumaran (IHF secretary) or the IHF," he said. Although the players appeared clearly unhappy as they prepared to emplane, they were not willing to speak on record. However, a player, requesting not to be quoted, said, "I don't know why he was not taken. He did a pretty good job in the last two years. Another player said: "He could have been a great help to the side in the trainings in the lead up to the Olympics. Players will definitely miss his service." Sampath was also the fitness trainer of the junior World Cup winning team in 2001. Attempts to contact Sampath did not fructify. The trainer is scheduled to leave for his home town Bangalore later in the day. (PTI)