A day after coach Paul van Ass claimed he was sacked, a week back, Hockey India president Narinder Batra has accused him of talking ‘rudely’ and said he wasn’t a good coach. Batra, however, said that if the committee appointed by Hockey India feels Van Ass is the right man for the job, then he will ‘personally go to Holland and get him back.’
Batra has been at the receiving end of criticism after yet another foreign coach’s tenure ended abruptly, leaving India’s Olympic preparations in tatters. Van Ass alleged Hockey India of being dishonest and said on Monday that he received an email from high performance director Roelant Oltmans on July 13, informing him that his services were no longer needed.
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Van Ass said he wasn’t given a reason for his removal but suspected the spat he had with Batra after the World League quarterfinal match against Malaysia could be the reason. Batra, who had earlier denied such an incident took place, said he spoke to the players after taking Van Ass’s permission.
“After the match, the organisers called me on to the pitch. I asked ‘am I supposed to come (on field)’, and they said the team wanted to meet me. I congratulated Paul and Roelant and then spoke to the players,” Batra told NDTV. “I asked Paul ‘can I speak to the team and I will be speaking in Hindi’. He said yes. I spoke for around 45-50 seconds and told them the performance needs to be consistent… Nobody likes losers, not even our sponsors. ‘If you want people to get attached to you and the country to support hockey, you need to start winning more’.”
Batra said he was about to tell the players to concentrate on the next matches and focus on qualifying for the final but Van Ass ‘rudely’ asked him to leave the pitch. “I initially thought he was talking to someone else. He said either you leave or I leave. His tone was pretty rude. I told him ‘Paul, we’ll talk about it later’. And I left. After that I was there for two matches and he never came to talk to me,” Batra added.
The federation chief also rubbished Van Ass’s claims that he wasn’t sent tickets for his return to India, saying they had sent him tickets at ‘2.43pm on June 9.’ Batra said Van Ass must have realised the difficulty of the task, which is why he chose not to return.
“People say Van Ass is a good manager and a good motivator but I don’t think he is a good coach. In Holland, he had the support of a forward coach, a midfield coach, a goalkeeping coach, a strategist, video analyst… here he realised the responsibility is on him to do everything,” Batra added.
He, however, asserted that the doors are still open for Van Ass’s return. “Final decision will be taken by the committee. If they feel he should come back then I assure you I will personally go to Holland and get him back,” he said.
Olympian Harbinder Singh will chair the meeting of the nine-member committee on Friday, which comprises former coach V Baskaran, selector BP Govinda and former goalkeeping coach AB Subbaiah, among others. The committee was initially supposed to review the performance of the team at the World League, but will now also decide on the future of Van Ass. However, it still isn’t clear whether they have been mandated to nominate his replacement, if he is eventually sacked.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI), meanwhile, has washed its hands of the issue, saying it is between Hockey India and Van Ass. “They are not obligated to inform us and can take their own decision. There is a clause in the contract which gives both parties to terminate it with one month’s notice. SAI does not have a role in it,” a SAI official said.