Saddest day for Indian hockey: Gagan

Olympian Gagan Ajit Singh on Monday blamed the Indian Hockey Federation for the country's failure to qualify for the Olympics.

updated: March 26, 2008 09:46 IST
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Olympian Gagan Ajit Singh on Monday blamed the Indian Hockey Federation for the country's failure to qualify for the Olympics.

On India's 2-0 defeat to Great Britain in the final of the Olympic qualifiers, Gagan said, "it is the saddest day for Indian hockey. The IHF top brass, including its president and coach, should step down immediately and pave way for fresh people."

He said the team's failure to qualify for the Olympics after 80 years was not just a "national shame", but a great disappointment for "world hockey as well".

"It's a loss for world hockey as others want India to do well and be there," he said.

He said it was beyond his comprehension why players like him, Len Aiyappa, Sandeep Singh and Deepak Thakur, who played well in the Premier Hockey League (PHL), were ignored by the selectors.

"The English team had earlier gone on record saying they fear Sandeep Singh, who would have been an asset if he had played. Other players who were doing really well were not even considered," he regretted.

Balwinder Singh Shammi, who played 156 international matches, said coach Joaquim Carvalho and the selectors should step down after the team's shock defeat.

"First of all, a player like Sandeep Singh was ignored. In the absence of experienced players, how can the selectors even think that the team will qualify," he said.

Coach of the Junior World Cup winning team of 2001, Narinder Singh Sodhi, said though it was a "black day for our hockey, but it is not the end of the road".

"Our hockey is not finished with this defeat. We have players like Arjun Halappa, Sandeep Singh, Vikram Pillay, Kanwalpreet Singh and Tejbir Singh who cannot be ignored. They are not too old to be sidelined," Sodhi said.

Satinder Sharma, who has umpired in 99 international matches and would be umpiring in the forthcoming Olympics, said it was sad that the Indian team would not be there in Beijing.

"I think now we will have to re-draw our strategy and do some re-thinking. We will also have to put in a lot of effort at the grassroots level. Creating discipline among our players is also very important so that they don't have to sit out on account of receiving yellow cards," he said.

Sukhbir Singh Grewal, coach of the national team from 1987-92, said making short-term strategies and expecting better results do not go hand-in-hand.

"We have changed 15 coaches in 10 years. How can they do justice," he said.

He said the state associations were also not functioning properly.

"We have not played against top six teams and considered our wins against teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka a big thing.

Naturally, when your team will be pitted against big teams, they will succumb under pressure," he said.

He said it was time to take a relook on the training methods.

"We need specialists like sports psychologist, sports medicine experts, training experts etc to groom our players," he said.

Meanwhile, drag-flicker Sandeep Singh said it was a matter of "shame" that India had failed to qualify.

"It has happened for the first time that we have failed to qualify. Naturally, it is a sad day for all of us," he told PTI over phone from Rourkela.

Singh, who did not find favour with selectors despite performing well, said "now is the time to forget what has happened in the past and look ahead.

"We should re-build our team for the upcoming tournaments," he said.

Sandeep felt one of the reasons behind the team's debacle was its lack of exposure against top teams.

"Over the past two years, we have not played so much against top teams. To some extent, it puts our youngsters under pressure when they are pitted against the leading sides in big matches," he felt.

Former Vice President of IHF, M S Malik reacted in anger and demanded resignation of IHF chief KPS Gill and "overhaul" of the Federation's management.

"I strongly criticise the dictatorial attitude of Gill as he never tried to take the help of outstanding players of the country who won eight times Olympic hockey gold. Also, the bad planning of IHF has ruined the hockey at national and international level.

Moreover, 80 per cent of the Federation's budget is spent on its top officials and only a small amount is spent on welfare of the players," Malik said in a statement here.