“My warrior team can only fight 11 vs 11. But not 13 vs 11,” India coach Harendra Singh said angrily at the press conference following India’s 2-1 defeat to Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinal. The result had taken away India’s chance of securing their first semifinal berth in the World Cup since 1975, cutting short their stay in the tournament after a fantastic start.
Amid a tense atmosphere in the room, the Indian coach was asked to weigh in on what went wrong during the match. After giving a brief apology to the home fans, Singh immediately pointed fingers at the referees.
“I am opening up today, I have been quiet for a while. I did not file a protest at the Asian Games. In the shootout against Malaysia at the Games, my captain was given a yellow card for blocking. But later, it was revealed that it was not a case of blocking. Umpiring is one of the committees in International Hockey Federation that they do not want to improve. We will continue to face similar results as long as it does not,” he said.
The former Indian international was upset that two cards were handed to his players – Hardik Singh and Amit Rohidas – but the Dutch defenders were not punished for similar fouls. In the final few minutes, skipper Manpreet Singh was pushed just a few yards outside the circle, but the referee did not find it a worthy enough cause for a booking.
“Amit Rohidas was given a card but when Manpreet Singh was pushed, there was no card for the Dutch defender. If there is a tackle, then someone should see that this cannot be excused. We have lost two major tournaments because of poor umpiring,” Singh said.
He added: “In the umpires meeting, all the coaches request umpire managers to show video replays of what is acceptable and what constitutes as a foul. But the powerpoint presentations we are shown by them do not make us clear on that front. ”
The coach further pointed that video referrals used during the match often work in favour of the players, which is an indication that umpiring in real time needs to improve. “When the players go for the video referral, most of the times it goes in their favor. Why don’t the umpires get it right the first time? We cannot depend every time on the referrals,” he said.
On being questioned whether India will be appealing on umpiring decisions, skipper Manpreet Singh asked, “What is the use – we are out of the tournament.”
The coach added: “There is a process to appeal, but I have never seen a use for that. So, we have to accept this gracefully. But there is a real need for improvement on this front. Everyone invests so much time in preparing for the World Cup – but because of one wrong decision from one person, all the hard work of the past six months goes to waste.”
When the Netherlands coach Max Caldas was asked whether he agreed that there was umpiring errors during the match, he said the best team won. “The team that had the most chances, the most corners, the most penetration won the game. The umpires do not play the game – the players do. As a team, we always try to find a reasoning of a win or loss within ourselves. We would never blame the umpire because they do not count,” he said.
The Dutch skipper Billy Bakker further added that a good team can win the match despite the decisions not going in their favor: “I think I am pretty happy with the officials. Sometimes it is difficult to see for the umpires and the players what really happened. At times the decisions do not go the way you want. In my opinions, a really good team can go on to win despite those decisions,” he said.