On the day he was sacked as chief hockey coach Dutchman Roelant Oltmans talks about why Hockey India is wrong in thinking that he is not a result-oriented, why it is difficult to change the system and the difference of opinion he had with the Hockey India. Excerpts.
Are you surprised with Hockey India’s decision to sack you?
No, I was not. Especially after the meeting that we had (over last three days). I told the players and my family that this will be the end. So I was aware of that.
How did the players react?
You can see the players are absolutely surprised. We were going in the right direction. After the World League we all were very disappointed so we clearly changed a couple of things in our approach and the boys adapted fantastically to that. But if you don’t want to see that, it’s fine.
Do you think this will remain an appealing job for foreign coaches considering they’ve all left unhappy?
I can only say that at least from the area where I come from, not too many people will be keen. Of course, there are people like me who think you can change the system. But one thing is sure, you cannot change the system. If you’re coming to India as foreign coach, there is one thing for sure — before you finish your contract, you will be fired. Look at Jose Brasa, Terry Walsh and Paul van Ass… There are people who fund these programmes. Are they going to question this?
Hockey India says they want a ‘result-oriented’ coach… A result-oriented coach?
That’s fine. Normally you have a process, and if you have that in place results will come. And we had quite a few results already – silver medal, a first-ever silver medal for India at the Champions Trophy. I think after 34 years, we had a first medal at a big FIH tournament when we won the bronze in the World League in 2015. We won the Asian Champions Trophy, Junior World Cup. What are they talking about? It’s bizarre…but it’s fine. If you want a new coach, then you say you want another coach. I accept it and it’s fine. I think everyone who has been following Indian hockey know the progress we have made. We have risen from 13th to 6th in the rankings, women have qualified for the Olympics for the first time and then you say I am not a result-oriented coach…
According to the committee, you said reaching the semifinals was a target for next year’s Commonwealth Games. The main reason, according to them, is you are defensive in targets and team’s performances are inconsistent.
Well, the team is going forward already and will continue to progress. I am sure the team will win medals at the Asia Cup. Regarding the CWG, I said top-4 in case we want to give rest to our best players. If we want to win a medal, we take our best players. That’s what I said.
Was there pressure on you to select more junior players and change the core group?
I know they (Hockey India) want youngsters in and I said they are not ready yet. A couple of them are, but some are not. They want to change every time, every time. I told them look at Holland, Germany, Argentina…teams who play consistently well. So we have a different opinion on that. But of course, we have brought in youngsters in the team. There are 12 players from the junior squad in the main team.
India have pulled out of Pro League in 2019. Hockey India League isn’t happening next year. Where do you see the sport heading in this country?
I don’t want to react on that. It’s not the way I want to go out. I worked here for four-and-a-half-years under great pressure and it has enriched my life. To be able to work here was a privilege and I am really happy. Of course, there is a concern about the future after 2018. Let’s see how that develops.
What next for you?
There is a one-month notice in my contract. After that, I will go home and start thinking about my future. I will spend time with my family first. It’s been hectic in India, very hectic. Any coach who comes here will find that out. Good luck to anyone who wants to have this job.