The nine-member committee appointed by Hockey India has recommended that high performance director Roelant Oltmans be appointed as the chief coach of the men’s team, bringing the curtains down on Paul van Ass’s short tenure.
It was an obvious decision, which was taken after a marathon three-and-a-half hour meeting at the Hockey India office in New Delhi. To deepen the crisis, assistant coach Jude Felix too is reported to have resigned on Friday. The reasons for his decision were not known.
Harbinder Singh, who chaired Friday’s meeting, said they discussed India’s way forward under the assumption that Van Ass would not return, as he did not respond to mails and calls made by them. He further cited Van Ass’s inability to join the ongoing camp in Shilaroo and failure to submit his report as the reasons to ‘believe the coach had decided not to return.’
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The Dutchman called the meeting ‘stupid’ and later revealed email communication between him, Hockey India and Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the last two weeks, to support his claim that he was shown the door two weeks ago. Van Ass wrote to SAI executive director (teams) Sudhir Setia on July 21, making him aware of Hockey India’s decision.
He further stated that Oltmans met Hockey India CEO Elena Norman on July 14, where his dismissal was discussed. Van Ass added that Oltmans was already informed that he has to take charge of the national team in that meeting and the news about his sacking was shared with SAI.
“On Tuesday July 14, Roelant Oltmans had a meeting with Elena Norman, CEO of Hockey India, where they discussed my dismissal. The mail from Oltmans to me says that if I come to India, I have to sit at SAI office for a month. This if I want to fulfil my month’s notice. It was clear that I was not supposed to be the trainer of the camp in Shilaroo. Roelant Oltmans was already asked to fill in my place,” Van Ass said in the mail sent to SAI.
“In the mail from July 14th from Oltmans to me, Roelant also mentioned that contact has been made between Hockey India and SAI, and that a formal letter of resignation will be sent to me in the coming days.”
Van Ass said he did not receive any response from SAI to his mail, despite him sending a reminder. “Batra has sacked me after the Belgium tournament. It had nothing to do with hockey but everything to do with the incident (spat between the two of them). But he should then stick to it, send a formal letter, argumentation. This is all stupid, the committee and all,” Van Ass told The Indian Express.
Hockey India continued to maintain that they had never officially sacked Van Ass. Oltmans, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet Hockey India president Narinder Batra and SAI director general Injetti Srinivas on Monday or Tuesday to finalise his appointment. “The recommendations made by the committee are based on facts. We will act on it early next week,” Batra said.
The decision to appoint Oltmans was taken keeping in mind that it was too short a period to look for a new foreign coach, with Olympics just a year away. “It would take at least six months for the new coach to get accustomed to the set-up here. Oltmans has been here long enough and knows the players. The players too are comfortable with him. It was a logical decision,” a committee member said.
Meanwhile, the team is likely to get a new set of assistant coaches as well. There have been recommendations to replace assistant coach Sandeep Sangwan while Felix’s resignation has further complicated the scenario. Oltmans is likely to select his assistants over the weekend, and confirm it to Hockey India and SAI during the meeting next week.
Gurbaj dropped over disciplinary charges
Right back Gurbaj Singh has been omitted from India’s upcoming tour to Spain and France over disciplinary issues, with the special committee of Hockey India saying he was guilty of ‘misbehaviour and creating disharmony within the team.’ Gurbaj, who has been one of the mainstays of the team, has been accused of not cooperating with the coaches and refusing to play at the positions he has been asked to. This is not the first time he has been accused of this. He was out of action for almost a year after he had a fallout with then coach Michael Nobbs during the London Olympics.
“The committee has recommended disciplinary action against Gurbaj based on the reports submitted by the coaches and manager. He is accused of misbehaving with coaches. He is also accused of groupism,” the source added.
Gurbaj is likely to undergo counselling sessions and his return will depend on how he responds to the sessions. — ENS