Hockey India CEO Elena Norman’s alleged outburst against four players, including captain Manpreet Singh, ahead of India’s World Cup quarterfinal against the Netherlands last month had a ‘very disturbing effect’ on the team, then coach Harendra Singh’s has written in his report to the game’s governing body and Sports Authority of India.
Hockey India’s four-member high performance and development committee, which met in Delhi last Monday, cited the incident as one of the reasons for Harendra’s removal as the chief coach. According to the minutes of the meeting, dated January 7, the committee acknowledged that he is ‘best coach in India’ but at the same time, said he ‘lacked sufficient experience in tactical (sic) and strategy’ to coach a senior team, while questioning his ‘temperament and maturity levels.’
The committee went on to highlight ‘behavioural issues of few of the athletes’ and pulled up the coach for not being able to rein them in. “…ahead of the quarterfinals where few athletes were found to be in areas of the stadium where they are not permitted to enter and such issues need to be managed properly by the chief coach in their meetings since these violations can result in disciplinary sanctions and reprimand…” the committee noted, referring to the incident involving the players and the Hockey India CEO.
Two days before India’s quarterfinal, which they lost 2-1, Manpreet along with fellow players Krishan Pathak, Mandeep Singh and Gurjant Singh entered the VIP lounge of the stadium while watching the crossover match between the Netherlands and Canada. Norman rebuked them for not being in their designated seating area, which was next to the team dugouts opposite the VIP stand.
The following day, Manpreet acknowledged the incident took place. “It was our mistake. Players were not allowed in the lounge. All teams not allowed. We went there (so) it was our mistake,” he said. He went on to add that he wasn’t under pressure ‘to accept his mistake’. “I have no personal issues with Elena… She is my colleague, we have good relations.”
Harendra did not comment on the issue back then. However, in his point-by-point rebuttal to Hockey India’s claims on January 8, he said the committee’s allegations were ‘misdirected’. He defended himself by saying that off-the-field communication with players was the responsibility of the team manager Chris Ciriello.
“I repeatedly informed all players and coaching staff and same was informed to Ms Elena Norman… through text and calls before the incident took place; any off-field incident and communication are the responsibility of team manager,” he wrote. “But since this issue has been raised allow me to point out to a very disturbing effect of the latest incident,” he added in his report, before abruptly jumping to other matters.
When reached out to for reactions, Hockey India and Harendra did not respond.