Former Dutch national team coach Paul van Ass on Friday named as the new head coach of India’s men’s hockey team, ending three months of uncertainly after Australian Terry Walsh quit under controversial circumstances.
While 54-year-old Van Ass, who was at the helm of affairs of the Dutch team from 2010 to 2014, will take charge of the men’s team, New Zealand’s Anthony Thornton, 47, will replace Neil Hawgood as the coach of the women’s senior team.
According to a statement from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the name of the coaches were finalised at a special selection committee meeting headed by Secretary Sports and interim Director General of SAI Ajit Sharan, Hockey India President Narinder Batra, High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans and Olympian Harbinder Singh among others.
The committee considered three names — Van Ass, Hans Streeder of the Netherlands and Alexander Grey of Australia -– for the coach’s position of the men’s team, while Thornton, Canada’s Mathias Ahrens and Fabian Gregory of South Africa were in the race for the women’s side.
According to sources privy to the development, both Van Ass and Thornton have been awarded a three-year contract till 2018. India will host the 2018 men’s Hockey World Cup.
It has been learnt that both Van Ass and Thornton will get a pay cheque similar to their predecessors, Walsh and Hawgood.
While Van Ass is expected to join his new assignment within three to four weeks time, Thornton will need some more time to report to his new job as he has to give 30 days notice to his current employers.
Sources said Thornton is most likely to join the women’s team only after the Women’s FIH World League Round 2 to be held here from March 7 to 15.
As a player, Van Ass had limited international experience but as a coach he led the Netherlands to an Olympic silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics after being given the charge of the Dutch team in 2010. He also served as the head coach of the Dutch Under-21 team.
At the club level, Van Ass not just resurrected the fortunes of the Dutch Club HC Gazellen-Combinatie, he even took them to the Euro Hockey League final in 2007
The position of the men’s team coach was lying vacant for little over three months after Walsh suddenly resigned from the post just three weeks after guiding India to Asian Games gold medal after a hiatus of 16 years.
Walsh quit over pay dispute and wanted a better deal. The 60-year-old Australian, himself a noted Olympian, submitted his resignation in dramatic fashion, saying that he was finding it difficult to adjust to the decision making style of the sporting bureaucracy in the country. His contract was to run till the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In Walsh’s absence, High Performance Director Oltmans, another Dutchman, performed the duties of the men’s team coach in last month’s FIH Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar, where India finished fourth.
A month after Walsh’s resignation, women’s team’s coach Neil Hawgood parted ways, refusing to extend his contract which ended in December 2014.
Newly-appointed women’s team coach Thornton has been working with the New South Wales Institute of Sports in Australia for four years and has also worked with the Australian Under-21 men’s team as its head coach.
Aa a Black Stick player, she represented the national side in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where the team finished eighth.
Speaking on the new appointments, Sharan said: “The most important criteria for selecting the two individuals was based on whether they are capable of taking Indian hockey forward.
“The national team has been performing well for the last few years and with the men’s team already qualified for the Rio Olympics we are keen that the development process not just continues further but gathers pace in the next few months.”