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August 21, 1999


send this column to a friend Cedric D'Souza

Gill's will

When you are selected as national coach, you get a tremendous high that you are 'the chosen one' -- selected from 1,000 million people in the country. Apart from this the self-satisfaction and immense pride is also a very heady feeling.

They say power is an aphrodisiac, and rightly so. Being a former national coach I can soundly second this. 'The key' is to keep your head on your shoulders, maintain a balance and not lose perspective. In other words, be humble in victory and magnanimous in defeat.

Poetic words? Maybe. Easy to preach, but extremely difficult to follow. I would like to think that during my tenure I did manage to draw this balance, although there will be many who will feel otherwise.

Coaching in the sub-continent is a different ball game when compared to the approach of our Western counterparts. The Western powers run the sport in a thoroughly professional manner. Their strengths lie in their professional administration and coaching standards, meticulous planning, structuring of the game from the grass root level up, and the continuity of their programmes.

Prior to selecting/naming a coach, they do their homework thoroughly. Every coach, be it a junior or the national coach, who is hired by the federation signs a contract. Once the coach and the federation have signed a contract, the onus then lies totally on the coach's shoulders. He is the boss and is given a free hand -- be it in the matter of selection of players or the team's officials.

The policy, that every other member in the team -- whether manager, physiotherapist, doctor, trainer, video technician or psychologist -- has to assist him is strictly enforced by the federation officials, thus making it clear to all officials accompanying the team who wears the pants!

However, things are not so transparent in our case. In many instances it is quite the opposite. Many officials continue to wear the uniforms (of their respective jobs) on their sleeves whilst accompanying the team. Result? Ruffled egos are a common sight.

Example: A police or army officer continues to behave and act like one when he is with the team. He should realise, or be instructed by the Indian Hockey Federation, that he is now part of the team management, and however menial his task is, should work as an aid to the coach.

It is common knowledge that officials accompanying the team are often those who are accommodated for some reason or the other. Either their vote during the federation elections was instrumental in getting the office-bearers elected or they may have been instrumental in raising sponsorship. The government (the sports ministry) is well aware of this trend, and that is why it refuses to pay for the manager's expenses while on international tours.

But let us get back to the subject of the national coach. In Indian hockey, the national coach has never been given the importance he deserves. Coaches are changed, unceremoniously dumped and selected (credentials notwithstanding) at the drop of a hat.

What does this portray? In my opinion, it shows a lack of planning, continuity and depicts a clear case of pushing the panic button. Can anyone justify the changing of the coach nine times since K P S Gill's IHF came to power in July 1994?

A cursory look at the how often our coaches have been changed suffices to say everything.

1. Zafar Iqbal was coach till the 1994 Asian Games.

2. I took over before the 1994 World Cup and was around till the 1996 Olympics.

3. V Bhaskaran replaced me for the Champions trophy at Madras in 1996 and was in command till the Indo-Pak series of 1997.

4. Pargat Singh replaced Bhaskaran for just one tournament -- the four-nation tournament in Hamburg in 1997.

5. Bhaskaran returned for the Indo-Pak series and 1998 World Cup.

6. M K Kaushik replaced Bhaskaran for the Commonwealth Games and Bangkok Asian Games in 1998.

7. Bhaskaran returned for the 1999 Indo-Pak series.

8. Harcharan Singh replaced Bhaskaran for the 1999 European tour.

9. Bhaskaran returned in July 1999. Till when is anyone's guess?

What's the IHF's modus operandi?
The key word is control. They give you the post but at the same time control you. Primarily, this is because there is 'no contract' between the federation and the coach. This gives the federation leeway to do whatever they want, as there is nothing binding or in writing. So, in reality, the coach is working with a dagger over his head -- not knowing when he will get the boot.

Then there are also other factors that contribute to the control issue -- like the Ji Huzoor syndrome, as also the scores of people just dying to don the national coach tag at any cost -- or rather 'no cost'.

There will be some who do not agree with my perceptions -- but then I would like an answer to the next question.

Pray, why is it that the IHF is wary of signing a contract?

Cedric D'Souza's column, continued

Cedric D'Souza

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