Junior India coach Jude Felix has written to Hockey India seeking an explanation for his sudden removal as the head coach of the Youth Olympics-bound India team.
Felix has been the junior team coach for the last 13 months but was dropped at the last minute, after the team for the Buenos Aires Games was selected. He was instead asked to travel to Malaysia for a lower-profile Sultan of Johor Cup, while High Performance Director David John has been named the head coach of the Youth Olympics side.
John, who first came to India seven years ago as a physio, has also been named head coach of the women’s team. Baljit Singh Saini, who’d been in charge till now, is travelling as the manager. Interestingly, Hockey India president Mushtaque Ahmad, on Tuesday, curtailed John’s powers by removing him from the selection panel of the senior national team for the World Cup for showing ‘prior bias’ against senior players. He has also questioned John’s contribution to grassroots development.
Felix, who was appointed as the coach of the world champion junior team in August 2017, said he was ‘utterly disappointed and shocked’ after being removed as the coach of the Youth Olympics team. “I’ve taken it very badly. I was very shocked to know I wasn’t a part of the team. Utterly disappointed… because there was absolutely no communication. I was told only after he took my assistance in selecting the team,” Felix told The Indian Express.
Felix, a former coach of the senior men’s team, said he was informed by John only after the team was selected in mid-August. Hockey India did not officially announce the decision to change coaches back then, or when the team was announced on August 23. It was only done earlier this week when the team left for Buenos Aires, where they will open their campaign against Bangladesh on October 7.
A miffed Felix shot off a letter to Hockey India CEO Elena Norman and John, ‘on August 15 or 16’, demanding an explanation. “I got a reply just from David, and he said Johor Cup was more important,” Felix said. Curiously, the 9 best players from the 34-member junior core group have been selected for the Youth Olympics. Malaysia and Australia – the other teams that’ll take part in both these competition – too have given higher preference to the Youth Games. When reached out on Tuesday, Norman did not offer any comments. However, a senior Hockey India official said: “David is not the coach but he is going as a manager. We are only permitted to have two support staff with each team for the Youth Olympic Games, hence we have taken this decision.”
The junior team is expected to leave for Johor Cup later this week. The tournament, which begins from October 6, is an annual six-nation tournament played in Malaysian city Johor Bahru. Coached by Felix, India won a bronze medal in last year’s edition. “I can’t be demotivated… it will affect the boys. I’ve been at the camp passionately teaching the boys. We have prepared well for the tournament. That’s the positive part of all this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hockey India president Ahmad wrote a strongly-worded mail to Norman in which he severely criticised John for commenting on the performance of individual players at last month’s Asian Games. John has been critical of performances from goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, defender Rupinderpal Singh and forward SV Sunil in particular.
“Observing the bias David John now has against (a) few players… I have decided David John will not be a part of the Sr Men selection committee for the World Cup. This is to ensure fairness in selection without any prior bias against anyone in anyone’s mind,” Mushtaque wrote.