Erratic, Unhinged And Unprofessional Behavior of Hockey India Leadership

Illustration by Austin Coutinho, courtesy First Post

n the 2012 London Olympics, the Indian men's hockey team finished last, and failed to win even a single game. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Indian women's hockey team finished last, and failed to win even a single game

There is a problem with Indian hockey, and it has to do with the Hockey India leadership. If the hockey federation were run like a corporate entity, the President and Secretary would have been forced out long ago for incompetence. Here is the case.

Erratic Batra

The coach who won India the 2014 Asian Games hockey gold (Terry Walsh) was fired from his very next tourmanent. The same Walsh who guided India to a Commonwealth Games silver, Asian Games gold and test series win against Australia in Australia, was shockingly let go by Hockey India president Batra, overruling SAI and the Sports Ministry.

Veteran sports writer S. Thyagarajan wrote on, "It is incomprehensible why Hockey India manufactured a problem (linking Terry Walsh with US Field Hockey) as the ploy to show him the door. Terry Walsh provided everything positive and brought India back to the top of the podium at the Asian Games in Incheon and the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games at Scotland. No foreign coach so far has achieved as much as Terry. Yet he was compelled to slip out of memory."

Impulsive Batra

The person who replaced Terry Walsh was Paul van Ass, who coached the Netherlands men's team to an Olympic silver medal (2012 London) and a World Cup silver medal (2014 Hague).

But Paul van Ass was fired after his first his very first world level tournament (2015 Hockey World League Semi-finals). During that tournament, Narendra Batra walked on to the pitch after India's quarter-final win against Malaysia, and told the players that sponsors will not come if India performs like this.

Coach Paul van Ass told Batra sternly - "The field of play is my area of responsibility. Either you stay or I stay." Batra got the message and walked out, fuming. Paul van Ass was then fired, with Batra stating that he was a good manager but not a good coach.

A senior Sports Ministry official told The Tribune, "Who is Batra to say van Ass is not a good coach? What are Batra's credentials to say that? And if that was indeed the case, why was van Ass brought to India in the first place?"

Impatient Batra

4 foreign men's coaches, from Spain, Australia and Netherlands, got the boot during Narendra Batra's tenure as secretary or president of Hockey India - Ric Charlesworth, Jose Brasa, Terry Walsh and Paul van Ass.

Said former captain Sardar Singh, "It's not good to change coaches so often. The team's strategy changes with the change in coach, and it takes time to build the side again. It takes at least a year with a new coach to understand each other. It's disruptive for the players and it affects the team's overall performance."

During the two Olympics during Batra's tenture, the Indian men's team finished last in the 2012 London Olympics, and the Indian women's team finished last in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Said, "Indian hockey needs Olympic success to get a foothold in the collective consciousness of Indian fans. But results can't come overnight. It will happen only if Batra gives time to coaches to deliver, and maintains a line between administrative and technical matters. Batra's impatience may undo all the good work he has done so far."

Incompetent Leadership (post Batra)

Batra was known for his crisis-driven administration, hurtling from impulsive decision to another, without caring for the consequences. But after Batra left to take up the FIH post, the present Hockey India leadership proved itself no better.

The FIH Pro Hockey League was touted as the next big thing in world hockey, guaranteeing live television and top quality internationals for six months a year. Nine of the best teams in the world - both men and women - will be playing each other on a home-and-away basis, every weekend for six months.

Hockey India entered both its men's and women's teams in this new global competition. Then Hockey India withdrew both its men's and women's team from this new global competition.

This illogical decision has deprived the Indian men's and women's teams of improving themselves by playing regularly against world class opponents, as opposed to playing and winning against some continental teams and trying to sneak in a backdoor entry to the Olympics.

On top of this, the Hockey India League has cancelled its 2018 season. Not a single match will be played, and not a single player will be paid in 2018. The Bengaluru franchise was supposed to debut in 2018, but now that will no longer happen.

Said a representative of the Lucknow franchise (Sahara Parivar), "This is definitely disappointing. We have invested a lot in the sport and will continue to do so. Past instances elsewhere haven't been too kind to leagues that return after a break. Let's wait and see."

This is a critical failure on part of Hockey India. If you cannot manage and deliver a sports league, step down. This is how the corporate world works. Cricket's IPL had far more critical problems, but never was a season cancelled. Even the sport of kabaddi has a successful Professional Kabaddi League.

Said former Olympian Mervyn Fernandes, "Hockey India League not being played is a disaster. The league has thrown up some great domestic talent. Youngsters rubbing shoulders with international stars and working with foreign coaches, have adapted themselves to the new game - physically, technically and mentally - and are now ready to take on the world. The league has also brought in much needed money to the game. Young hockey players were able to look forward to a good, secure lifestyle."

Indian hockey players will have no Hockey India League in 2018 and no FIH Pro Hockey League in 2019. If this isn't incompetence, what is?

Hockey Themed Movie 'Gold' Releasing on 15th August, 2018

kshay Kumar recently completed shooting in Bradford, England for Reema Kagti's movie Gold, which is based on the first Olympic gold medal won by independent India in the 1948 Olympics.

Gold, a period sports drama, will span 12 years from 1936 to 1948. Akshay Kumar is not playing a hockey player in the film, but essaying the role of a Bengali.

One possibility is that Akshay Kumar may be playing the role of Pankaj Gupta, who was the joint manager of the 1948 Olympic team as well as the assistant manager of the 1936 Olympic team. Pankaj was the link between the last Olympic gold of pre-independent India (1936) and the first Olympic gold of independent India (1948).

A source was quoted as saying, "A dialect tutor and a special trainer to explain traditional Bengali mannerisms have been working with Akshay. The costume team has been working with fabrics that reflect designs from Kolkata from the 1940s."

The film is being directed by Reema Kagti, whose last movie was the supernatural drama Talaash, starring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjeet and Kareena Kapoor. Television actress Mouni Roy will be making her big screen debut, and is one of the few female characters in the otherwise male dominated narrative. The film has been scripted by Rajesh Devraj.

Said Reema about her movie, "This will be a fictional take on what actually happened. The game of hockey would feature prominently in the plot. But there will also be a strong human drama playing at the forefront. And it wouldn't be just the Olympics victory in 1948, but also the 12 preceding and crucial years in India's history."

Other cast members include Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Sunny Kaushal, who all play hockey players, and who completed a training schedule with former Indian captain, Sandeep Singh. Local Bradfford actors portrayed international hockey players of the rival teams.

Gold marks to be the first collaboration between Akshay Kumar and Excel Entertainment, and is slated for release on 15th August, 2018.

Indian Women Finish 3rd From Last In Hockey World League Semi-finals

Photograph courtesy FIH

he Hero Women's Hockey World League semi-finals were played at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, from July 8-23, 2017. The participating nations were as follows:

  • Pool A: England (world no. 2), Germany (no. 7), Japan (no. 11), Ireland (no. 15), Poland (no. 18)
  • Pool B: Argentina (world no. 3), USA (no. 6), India (no. 12), South Africa (no. 13), Chile (no. 20)

This tournament was a qualifier on two counts - a top 4 finish would guarantee a place in the 2017 Women's Hockey World League Finals in Auckland, while a top 5 finish would guarantee a place in the 2018 Women's Hockey World Cup in London.

Since Johannesburg is at a relatively high altitude of over 1,750 metres, the Indian team underwent training at the high-altitude SAI training centre at Shillaroo before arriving for the event.

The Indian team won only 1 match in the entire tournament, were held scoreless in 3 matches, never scored more than 1 goal in the remaining matches, and finished third from last. India had the following match results:

Stage Date Result Goal Scorers - India
Pool Jul 8 India 0 - South Africa 0  
  Jul 10 USA 4 - India 1 Leelimaa Minz (38 min)
  Jul 12 India 1 - Chile 0 Preeti Dubey (38 min)
  Jul 16 Argentina 3 - India 0  
Quarters Jul 18 England 4 - India 1 Gurjeet Kaur (57 min), PC
5th - 8th Jul 20 Japan 2 - India 0  
7th - 8th Jul 22 Ireland 2 - India 1 Gurjeet Kaur (15 min), PC

The final standings were as follows: 1 - USA, 2 - Germany, 3 - England, 4 - Argentina, 5 - South Africa, 6 - Japan, 7 - Ireland, 8 - India, 9 - Chile, 10 - Poland

The following were the tournament awards, voted on by a panel comprising team coaches and members of the broadcast and written media.

  • Player of the Tournament: Melissa Gonzalez (USA)
  • Top Scorer of the Tournament: Jill Witmer (5 goals)
  • Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Jackie Briggs (USA)
  • Junior (u-23) Player of the Tournament: Nike Lorenz (GER)

The Indian team for the Women's Hockey World League Semi-finals in London was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Savita Punia, Etimarapu Rajani

Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Gurjeet Kaur, Pukhrambam Sushila Chanu (vice captain), Monika

Midfielders: Renuka Yadav, Nikki Pradhan, Namita Toppo, Navjyot Kaur, Ritu Rani, Leeilima Minz

Forwards: Rani Rampal (captain), Reena Khokhar, Vandana Katariya, Anupa Barla, Preeti Dubey

Officials: Chief Coach - Sjoerd Marijne, Manager - David John, Assistant Coach - Erik Wonink, Assistant Manager - Bharat Kumar Chetri

Government School In A Delhi Village Gets Artificial Turf Field

Article and Photograph courtesy DNA

n a first in Delhi, a government school has got an international-level hockey astro turf, which has been constructed within 12 months and at a cost 3 crore less than the estimated budget.

The artificial turf, installed at Government Boys Senior Secondary School (GBSSS) in Ghuman Hera village in southwest Delhi, was inaugurated by chief minister Arvind Kejrival and his deputy, Manish Sisodia.

This is the third synthetic turf in Delhi, the other two being at the National Stadium and Shivaji Stadium.

Said Kejrival said at the inaugural event, "The work for this stadium has been completed within a year, and the Lok Nirman Vibhag (PWD) has managed to construct it at a cost of 4.5 crore, well below the original estimated expenditure of 7.5 crore."

Far from the city's hustle-bustle, the hamlet of Ghumanhera has a special bond with the national game, and has been nurturing sportsmen for the last 25 years. Nearly every home in the village has members who have either played or are playing, hockey. According to a rough estimate, nearly 2,000 Ghuman Hera residents have played hockey at zonal, state and national levels.

The clock strikes five in the evening and the usually deserted streets of Ghuman Hera begin to flood with youngsters. Donning colourful jerseys and with hockey sticks on their shoulders, the small army is headed for their daily practice.

Baljeet Singh, a former national-level hockey player and known in the area as 'Coach Sir' says: "We started training children in 1992. Initially, it was difficult for us. We had to convince parents to send their kids for practice. We had to buy the children shoes and hockey sticks to encourage them."

"Students from our school have played for the Indian Army, Navy and Railways," says P. K. Jha, principal of the school. The school has played a vital role in promoting the sport, not only among the villagers but also among people from the adjoining areas. As many as 10 students from private schools have taken admission in our school this year, just to practice on this field. We hope that more of our children get selected for national camps," Jha adds.

Says Surendar Kumar, who is currently employed in the Indian Navy's mechanical department in Mumbai, and also plays for its hockey team, "As many as 7 members in the present Navy hockey team are from Ghuman Hera. They got employed in the Navy after being selected in its hockey team. Also, 18 girls from our village are also employed with the Railways and playing hockey for their respective teams."

Back on the lush-green GSSB turf field, 18-year-old Monika is practicing. "I want to become a coach as our village has so many girls playing hockey but there is not even a single coach for them," she says, while skillfully driving the ball into the goal.

ONGC Win 91st Murugappa Gold Cup Hockey Tournament In Chennai

he 91st MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament was held at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Egmore, Chennai from July 27 - August 6, 2017.

10 teams from all over India participated, and were grouped into the following pools:

  • Pool A: Bharatiya Rail, Bengaluru Hockey Association, Bharat Petroleum, Punjab & Sindh Bank, Tamil Nadu
  • Pool B: ONGC, Odisha, Sthal Sena (Army XI), Punjab National Bank, Kendriya Sachivalay (Central Secretariat)

The tournament was played on a league-cum-knockout basis, with the top 2 teams from each pool qualifying for the semi-finals.

ONGC and Bengaluru Hockey Association reached the final of the tournament, with the following match results:

Stage DDate ONGC Date Bengaluru Hockey Association
League Jul 28 beat Odisha 7-1 Jul 28 lost to Bharatiya Rail 2-6
  Jul 29 beat Sthal Sena 5-0 Jul 30 beat Bharat Petroleum 4-3
  Aug 1 lost to Punjab National Bank 2-5 Jul 31 beat Punjab & Sindh Bank 3-0
  Aug 3 beat Kendriya Sachivalay 2-0 Aug 3 lost to Tamil Nadu 0-1
Semi-finals Aug 5 beat Bharatiya Rail 5-3 Aug 5 beat Punjab National Bank 3-1
Final Aug 6 beat Bengaluru Hockey Association 4-2

ONGC beat Bengaluru Hockey Association 4-2 in the final to emerge champions of the 91st Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament. ONGC won a cash prize of ₹5 lakh while Bengaluru Hockey Assocation was awarded ₹2.5 lakh. A cash prize of ₹10,000, along with a high-end bicycle was given to the following individual award winners:

  • Forward of the Tournament: Jenjen Singh (Bengaluru Hockey Assocation)
  • Midfielder of the Tournament: Machaiah (ONGC)
  • Defender of the Tournament: Divakar Ram (ONGC)
  • Most Promising Player of the Tournament: Sanjay Xalxo (Odisha)
  • Player of the Final: Rajkumar Pal (Bengaluru Hockey Assocation)

Murugappa Group executive chairman A. Vellayan gave away the prizes.

Photograph of the Month

Photograph by Jan Kruger, courtesy Getty Images for FIH

he Photograph of the Month for August 2017 is from a Hockey World League match between Ireland and South Africa, played on July 9, 2017 in Johanessburg. In this picture, John Jackson of Ireland is sent flying over Owen Mvimbi of Souh Africa. Ireland won the match 2-0, courtesy of goals from Matthew Nelson and Shane O'Donoghue.

Money Matters

Article by Ashley Morrison, host of Not the Footy Show
Commentator for Hockey India League 2014, 2015, 2016

here will be no Hockey India League in 2018. It is believed that Hockey India sent notice to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to advise that there would be no League competition in 2018.

This may not come as a shock to people close to the sport as it is believed that many of the players who participated in last year's event are still awaiting payment of wages or bonuses. Yet it is a major blow not only to world hockey but also to Indian hockey.

Players from countries such as Australia relied on the five-week tournament to give them enough income to focus solely on hockey and their university studies; the scholarships that they receive from the Australian Institute of Sport not being enough to support them for a year.

To add to Australian Hockey's woes, the funding for the sport was cut heavily post the Rio Olympic Games under the Winning Edge program, so funds were already tight. Now players could be faced with a hard decision - international hockey or their career.

Players from other nations who have used the wages from the Hockey India League to support their playing careers will also be in a similar position.

This could not have come at a worse time for the FIH as they set about finalising the details for the new Pro League featuring nine international men's and women's teams playing in a global league over six months. There was already immense pressure on national associations to find the money not only to participate, but to remunerate their players for such a commitment. Now without the money from the HIL, the pressure will be ratcheted up a few notches.

Also the question has to be asked who will pay those players contracted to play in 2018? Will Hockey India do the right thing and pay out the contracts as the owners of the league, and then chase the Franchise owners? Surely the FIH will not be asked to step in and assist?

In addition to the effect on the international players, the closing down of the HIL is most likely to have a huge impact on the Indian players.

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, India failed to win a single game. It was the eight-time Olympic Champions worst performance ever; only worse was in 2008 when they failed to qualify.

The Hockey India League was announced in 2012 and commenced in 2013 with the full endorsement of the FIH. Every single game was shown live by Star Sports, who invested heavily in the competition.

Suddenly the cream of young Indian talent was playing under some of the best coaches in the world, and alongside the best international players. It was plain to see how some players flourished alongside the world's best. Surender Kumar at Delhi Waveriders had a great HIL season alongside Great Britain's Iain Lewers and forced his way into the national squad. S. V. Sunil, Satbeer Singh and Affan Yuosuf also clearly benefitted playing with the likes of Jamie Dwyer, Matt Gohdes, Kieran Govers and Simon Orchard at the Jaypee Punjab Warriors. Current captain Manpreet Singh has never been shy to share how much he learned from playing alongside former Germany Captain Moritz Fuerste.

Yet Indian Hockey flourished due to the exposure. At the Hockey World League Finals in Raipur in 2015, India not only defeated the defending champion, the Netherlands, but recorded their first podium finish in a major world-level competition for 33 years. Then in 2016 they went one better and won silver at the Champions Trophy taking the final to a shoot out after keeping the World Number one Australians to a 0-0 draw. In the same year their junior side won the Junior World Cup for just the second time in the competition's history.

There is no doubt that the Hockey India League played a huge part in that success. Indian players were no longer in awe of other international players, they also knew their game.

The end of the HIL would not be so worrying if in the five years of the league a development program had been implemented to bring through the next generation of players. Sadly the game is still relying on the existing academies to uncover the talent and start polishing it. Yet to compete on the world stage the players need so much more such as exposure to things such as diet, fitness and even rolling substitutions. At junior level teams are still playing two periods of 35 minutes as opposed to four 15 minute periods.

Yet now it would appear the HIL is no more, at least in 2018. So what will replace that development tool? What impact will its loss have on the development of Indian players? Will we now see more Indian players playing in overseas leagues?

Can the League come back in 2019? Having shut down once will the players have the faith in the reincarnation?

At the end of the day, without the players you have no game, so it is vital that the players are looked after, even more so if there is no HIL.

Media Matters

ports Illustrated India held its sixth annual Maruti Suzuki Sportsperson of the Year (SOTY) Awards at the ITC Maurya Collection Hotel in Mumbai on July 6, 2017. Olympic silver medallist P. V. Sindhu was declared the Sportsperson of the Year, and her coach Pullela Gopi Chand was selected as Coach of the Year

One Thousand Hockey Legs founder K. Arumugam was chosen for one of the awards under the 'Contribution to Sports' category. The award was handed over to him on the stage by living legend of Indian football, Baichung Bhutia.

This was the writeup about the hockey NGO that the organisers put out:

In 2008, Indian hockey touched its lowest point after the national team failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. Never before in the history of the Olympics did the national game face ignominy of this magnitude. Predictably, it caused considerable amount of despair among hockey fans and former players. Equally predictably, all was forgotten the moment the headlines moved on to other pressing matters. But one man took India's failure to qualify for the Olympics as a personal loss.

K. Arumugam, a hydrologist by profession, and an ardent hockey lover, who had already devoted a considerable amount his lifespan and earnings chronicling the fortunes of Indian hockey as a hockey writer and stats keeper, decided to do his bit to arrest the free fall of Indian hockey. He believed that one of the root causes for the declining fortunes of the game was that not enough children were taking to hockey in their formative years.

Thus, the Hockey Citizen Group was born. Arumugam formed a collective of like-minded hockey lovers with the purpose of revitalising the game at the grassroots level. The brains behind this initiative felt that instead of the elite public schools, the game would be much better received and appreciated in government and trust-funded schools. The first project launced by the NGO was the One Thousand Hockey Legs (OTHL) programme, with the target of introducing 500 children per city to the game across the country through schools.

Starting out with Saket J Block Government School in 2008, OTHL has spread to 120 schools in five states. The programme has already delivered some encouraging result. Kishore Arya from Delhi was a member of the team that won the Sub-Junior Asia Cup. The other promising players that OTHL has produced include the likes of Sushil Chauhan, Rohit Gharai, Zaseem Mohammad and Pavan.

As is the wont in India, with no government support forthcoming, OTHL banks heavily on generosity of individual hockey lovers. Most of the funding requirements is met through donations by the founders and friends. Some international stars like Dutch goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann too have also stepped in by providing generous quantity equipment to the children. OTHL employs around 40 coaches across the country to implement its programme, but almost half of them are simply volunteers who invest their time and energy for the love of the sport.

This is the third recognition for the OTHL in last three years. In 2015, OTHL won the Hockey India President's Outstanding Achievement Award, in 2016 it won the Government of India's National Sports Promotion at Grassroot Award and now in 2017 it won the Sports Illustrated India Contribution to Sports Award.

Visitor of the Month

he August 2017 Visitor of the Month is Vishvajyothi Bhattacharjee, who sent the following email to

We would like to know India's head-to-head records against all countries. Please let me know if you have the statistics. maintains India's head-to-head records against the following countries presently - India vs. Australia, India vs. Malaysia, India vs. Netherlands and India vs. Pakistan.

Fun With Numbers

Statistics by B. G. Joshi

he August 2017 edition of Fun with Numbers is on the Euro Hockey Championship, the men's and women's editions of which will be held in Amsterdam from August 18-27, 2017.

Euro Hockey Championship (Men)

  • The men's edition of the 2017 Euro Hockey Championship features 6 teams ranked in the top 10 in the world
  • No other continent has as many men's teams ranked in the top 10 in the world as Europe
  • Germany has won 50% of the Men's Euro Hockey Championships held so far (8 out of 15), including a record 4-in-a-row (1991-2003)
  • England took nearly 4 decades since the inception of the Men's Euro Hockey Championship (1970) to win its first and only gold (2009)
WR Country Appearances P W L D GF GA Best Finish
3 Germany 15 92 72 10 10 337 105 8 Gold (1970, 78, 91, 95, 99, 2003, 11, 13)
4 Netherlands 15 92 70 12 10 363 121 4 Gold (1983, 87, 2007, 15)
9 Spain 15 92 51 29 12 258 149 2 Gold (1974, 2005)
7 England 15 93 53 24 16 255 137 1 Gold (2009)
5 Belgium 14 85 38 33 14 203 208 1 Silver (2013)
10 Ireland 14 82 33 37 12 152 162 1 Bronze (2015)

Euro Hockey Championship (Women)

  • The women's edition of the 2017 Euro Hockey Championship features 4 teams ranked in the top 10 in the world
  • No other continent has as many women's teams ranked in the top 10 in the world as Europe
  • Netherlands has won 75% of the Women's Euro Hockey Championships held so far (8 out of 12), including a record 4-in-a-row (1995-2005)
  • 2 countries have won both the Men's and Women's Euro Hockey Championships in the same year - Netherlands (1987) and Germany (2013)
  • The last 3 Women's Euro Hockey Championships have been won by 3 different countries - Netherlands (2011), Germany (2013), England (2015)
WR Country Appearances P W L D GF GA Best Finish
1 Netherlands 12 72 62 5 5 331 38 8 Gold (1984, 87, 95, 99, 2003, 05, 09, 11)
2 England 12 72 46 17 9 198 68 2 Gold (1991, 2015)
7 Germany 12 72 52 16 4 220 70 2 Gold (2007, 13)
10 Spain 12 72 36 29 7 141 108 2 Silver (1995, 2003)