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Michael Nobbs: For 2 years,I gave my heart and soul

Outgoing coach Nobbs says a lot of work is needed for India to start beating European hockey teams.

Written by Vinayak Padmadeo | New Delhi |
July 16, 2013 3:39:56 am

Having parted ways with the Indian hockey teams after two years as coach,Michael Nobbs has described the experience as “fantastic with highs and lows — lots of them.” In an interview with the Indian Express,he clears the air about the reason for his exit,and shares his views on the state of Indian hockey and what it needs to do to catch up with the world’s best.

Was it your decision to resign as India coach or were you were sacked?

It was my decision. (It was because of) what was happening in the last couple of months and it started to get worse and worse. I had blood pressure – 180/120 – and I was passing out all the time and all this was concerning me. It was getting more and more difficult. If you are doing a job that you love and you can’t do it to the best of your ability,physically,so I just thought: enough. I had to take two-three months off to get myself healthy again – that’s what the doctors said. We were at a critical stage and I couldn’t physically do it. So I approached Hockey India and said ‘could you contact SAI’ and that was the decision I had to make.

Some hints were thrown from the federation that they were not happy with the team’s performance and hence it was a mutual decision to part ways. Your comments.

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No. Hockey India never said anything to me. I talked to the CEO (Elena Norman) and told her that’s what I want to do. She rang me asking again,“is that what you want to do?” and I said yes. She said “we are going to a meeting now with Dr Batra and he is gonna talk to SAI,is that what you want to do?” I said “yup,that’s what I want to do” and that was it.

Have all the exit formalities been taken care of?

That will be done on Wednesday when I am meeting director general SAI (Jiji Thomson). I had to go home,missed my kids,not well. I just had to.

Is it true that your termination letter seeks to stop your salary for the month of June?

Yes it is. It is up to the DG and I to fix when we see each other on Wednesday. I didn’t breach my contract,but we’ve still got to sort this out.

How has the India experience been?

The experience has been fantastic with highs and lows — lots of them. It’s a tough job,really tough job. All the foreign coaches that have come here have been highly successful but haven’t been able to produce the results that the public want. Is that the coach’s fault or was it the system’s fault?

Can you expand on this?

It’s just that the processes have to be put in place. Roelant Oltmans is the high performance director and he trying to put processes in place to build up the grass roots and to build up the base of hockey — and these things will work but they need time to work.

All of a sudden a high-performance director was appointed early this year. How did you take it?

I had been asking for one for nearly 12 months. I think it is absolutely required. The problem with the national coaching is that you don’t have time for development because you are thrust from one coaching job to the next and you don’t have time. A high-performance director is a critical part of it. It is in Australia and I am sure it is there in Holland. You try your best to do all the roles but time is a difficult factor. You run out of it.

The FIH World League was your last tournament with the team. Was sixth place a decent result?

That’s exactly where we finished based on rankings. That’s where we are finishing consistently,while other teams in the world are improving – there’s no doubt about that — and we are managing to hold on to the status quo. We need to find a way to improve. We are still struggling to beat the European teams. The Asian teams,we beat consistently,but these European teams,they are better than us. We need to get better playing those teams and I have been saying this for two years now.

Shivendra Singh and Sandeep Singh were recalled for the World League after they were dropped for form. Were you happy with the selections?

They played well. As I said,we finished where we finished. Maybe we would have finished at the same spot with two others. We just need to forget all of this. The processes are in place that we play better,get consistently better against these European-type teams. Maybe we have to send our players to Europe to play. Belgium is a really good example. They’ve had their players playing in the Dutch national competition for a number of years. Ireland had a number of their players in national competition of Belgium. Our high-performance programme is looking at this. I don’t think our domestic hockey here will improve the players as fast as we need them to improve. I mean Dhanraj Pillay played in Holland. Why did he go there? He was a good player. He went there because there is good competition.

How do you rate your performance?

I have given my heart and soul for two years. There is nothing more that I know I could have done. What I have done in Australia has been highly successful. Coming here it is a completely new challenge. It’s not just about coaching,that’s tough enough. It is very very challenging environment to coach. I gave my heart and soul and I still would for India. I hope that I can come back and help some kids somewhere because I still believe inherently there is a lot of talent in India. But I don’t want to coach the top team anymore.

What about the team?

They are a professional bunch,they train very hard. They are under scrutiny more than other players in the world. They’ve got a lot to learn and they are very keen to learn. What I’m frustrated with is the public expectations all the time. That’s hard to manage. There are right people in place to do the job,but it is gonna take time.

In the wake of your resignation this debate about whether an Indian coach will fare better than a foreigner flared up. What is your take on this?

Look it would be fantastic if there was an Indian coach that was good enough. But I haven’t seen that’s the case. Will you tell how many Indian coaches have a job coaching national teams elsewhere in the world? Foreign coaches coaching overseas is everywhere in all sport. I think people try to get the best they can. Doesn’t matter whether he is domestic or foreign.

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