The involvement of high performance director Roelant Oltmans and chief coach Terry Walsh in the Hockey India League (HIL) has triggered a ‘club vs country’ debate. The duo has attracted criticism from several quarters for holding two posts simultaneously, including allegations of a conflict of interest.
Former India coach Michael Nobbs has come down heavily on his former colleagues — especially Oltmans — accusing him of adopting double standards and trying to wield influence on the national team’s coaches. The Australian said he turned down the offer to coach a HIL team last year after Oltmans advised him to do so.
It is believed that at least two teams — Punjab Warriors and Delhi Waveriders — were interesting in acquiring Nobbs’s services for the inaugural edition of the HIL. However, he was not allowed to accept the offer by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), who said it wasn’t ideal for the national coach to be a part f the HIL.
Nobbs said he was surprised when SAI cleared the way for both, Oltmans and Walsh, to be a part of the second edition, which begins on Saturday.
Oltmans continues to be the head coach of Uttar Pradesh Wizards whereas Walsh will be in charge Kalinga Lancers, the newest team in the fray.
‘Conflict of interest’
“I had an offer from one of the teams; the owner himself approached me. I took Roelant’s advice and asked him if it was a good idea. I was in two minds, considering I was the national team coach,” Nobbs said.
“I also had discussions with SAI. With good reason, we both agreed it would compromise the position of national coach. Even Roelant said it would be conflict of interest. I respected his views and said no. So I am surprised that he is continuing as Uttar Pradesh’s coach and even Terry is allowed to do that. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”
Hockey India has said the duo won’t be paid by SAI during their month-long HIL stint but that’s hardly the issue. Nobbs went on to question Oltmans’ role in the Indian setup and called him the ‘defacto’ coach of the Indian team.
“I am a bit curious about Roelant’s role as he seems to just travel around with the team and not do his real job. He really is a defacto Indian coach. He has been trying to influence things. It happened with me and I guess Terry is experiencing a similar situation,” Nobbs said of the current Indian hockey coach’s condition.
“Roelant’s job is to get the academies to produce players that are prepared for the national team. That hasn’t happened yet. Yes, he has his plans and you need time to implement them. But he has been here for 10 months, and the focus on grassroots and academies is not as much as desired.”
The 59-year-old Nobbs quit as the coach of the Indian team due to an adverse medical condition last year. Curiously, Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra initially said that Nobbs was sacked because of team’s poor performance but the Australian maintained he resigned because of growing depression and deteriorating health. He was later replaced by his Australian compatriot Walsh.
“Towards the end of my term in India, the biggest problem was depression. I found it very lonely in India and although I had friends, I felt as if I had no support, I had no energy to do anything. So I just had to get out, it was almost claustrophobic,” he said.