High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans was appointed coach of the Indian hockey team, replacing Paul van Ass, who was unceremoniously sacked after a bitter spat with Hockey India President Narinder Batra.
The 61-year-old Dutchamn, who has been associated with Indian hockey for close to three years now, will be at the helm of affairs at least till next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The decision to appoint Oltmans was taken at a meeting between Sports Authority of India’s Director General Injeti Srinivas and Batra.
“Oltmans has agreed to be the coach till the Rio Olympics and we would want him to continue after that,” Batra told reporters after the meeting. Batra said that Van Ass’ ouster was a disappointing chapter but it was important for Indian hockey to move ahead.
“We should move ahead, coaches come and go. We want to look ahead and prepare the team for the Olympics. we will talk to Oltmans about his requirements regarding the support staff and will give all possible assistance,” Batra said.
Earlier, a nine-member committee headed by Olympian Harbinder Singh, formed to decide Van Ass’ future, recommended that the Dutchman should not be continued.
Van Ass blamed an “autocratic” Batra for his ouster and said the recommendation to remove him did not come as a “surprise” to him.
Oltmans has been associated with Indian hockey for nearly three years and to add to it, the players also gel well with him and some have even aired their views of handing the reins of the team to the Dutchman after Van Ass’ ouster.
Van Ass, who was appointed at the end of January this year, was awarded a three-year contract till 2018. The World League semifinals in Antwerp, earlier this month, was the Dutchman’s second assignment with the Indian team.
Van Ass’ sacking will be formalised after furtherdiscussions between SAI and Hockey India officials. Van Ass’ sacking left India without a coach with barely a year to go for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics for which the team had already qualified by virtue of its gold medal in last year’s Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The decision to appoint Oltmans puts an end to the uncertainty over India’s coach since a national camp has already started.
Van Ass was the fourth foreign coach to be shown the door unceremoniously ever since Hockey India took over the reins of the game in 2009.
His predecessors Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs and Terry Walsh — all of whom were hired by Sports Authority of India on the recommendations of HI at hefty salaries — also left the country on a bitter note.