Rediff Logo Sports Find/Feedback/Site Index
January 22, 2000


send this story to a friend

Sparing the rod...

Cedric D'Souza

It has been quite sometime since I wrote my last column, but in all honesty I must say that it is because I have been extremely busy with my new plan and ambition - plans which you are already aware of - the development of kids from the grass root level upwards. It is here that Alchemy Sports Promotion Network (ASPN) has sought my help, guidance and expertise to structure the programme with an international expert who is well versed with such a project.

While putting this type of a project together one has to be doubly careful and meticulous since one is dealing with kids. It is a huge project and I hope that one day the programme reaches all corners of the country, thereby ensuring that modern, intelligent hockey players, well versed with new techniques and warfare, are churned out by the system.

Imagine the amount of players that will have access to coaches, administrators, psychologists, doctors, nutritionists, fitness experts, video technicians and physiotherapists that are an integral part of this plan to develop players in every nook and corner of India.

But to make this happen, one must also have a uniform structure supported by a substantial budget. Budgets are obtained from sponsors looking to capitalise on anything that can enhance their image and help them increase their sales. So, realistically, what does a sponsor ask for? He is interested in the numbers game as well as maximum publicity for money the puts in.

Sure, the number of children that will be involved in this project should have the sponsors rubbing their hands in glee. Of course, rewards and results will gradually unfold and be visible only over a period of time. And for that, the sponsor must be patient. Under the circumstances, although this is something new that is being made available to the country, it will ultimately change the face of Indian hockey.

At the moment this programme is untried and untested in India (although it has proved to be a major success around the globe), and sponsors should realise that they could obtain this for a far lesser price than after a few years.

I must add that in development, we are dealing with highly impressionable and fragile minds, where a wrong stimulus could just deter the player from continuing with the game. At the early stages of their careers players initially have to start well, then stay involved while striving for excellence. And so for a project of this magnitude to succeed (apart from the budget) there must also be totally disciplined and committed people.

Which brings me to the main thrust of this article: discipline within the team officials. It is my opinion that the coach must conduct himself with discipline, decorum, and should at anytime make a spectacle of himself. He is the leader of the team. Since he wears his country's blazer, he is seen as an ambassador of the country. Keeping this in mind there should never be occasion where he lets down his guard and invites criticism.

There was an incident at the recently-concluded Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur - which saw India came a close second South Korea, which I consider the most improved team in contemporary hockey - where one of the team management conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of the tag he wore. It is now common knowledge what transpired there and no matter how much one manipulates the situation to hush these things up, the word and truth eventually leaks out.

Being so closely associated with the game, and having being a part of team management, it hurts to be critical. As much as I stand for coaches I cannot be blind to their misconduct. So, as much as it pains me to write about a fellow coach, I must do it in the larger interest of the game. Coaches cannot demand respect; they must command it. And if they are seen to make a spectacle of themselves, how in God's name can they even contemplate disciplining the players?

It was at a bar that one of our officials got boisterous after a couple of drinks and started eve teasing one of the local Malaysian girls. He was warned to refrain from making a nuisance of himself. Our man did not take heed and continued to let his hormones (in a figurative way) do the talking. The locals, peeved at this behaviour, decided to take the law into their hands and belted him over the head with a bottle, thereby inflicting a deep gash on his head. It took the Indian team doctor ten stitches to close the wound.

Could not the erring official realise that he was in Malaysia in official capacity, and that he was in a state where these things are just not done in public places? What about the others accompanying him? Could they not have used a little bit of discretion or restraint?

So, what action should have been taken? Well, immediate rustication from the team management, with a return ticket home, should have been the verdict. However, I gather that the matter was played down and hushed up.

It is time a clear message is sent out to all our officials. And that is: to demand discipline from the players, you must lead by example. And if that cannot be done, then they will be sacked.

For me, non-performance is not as grave as indiscipline; at any level, it cannot be tolerated.

Don't our officials realise that their attitudes and conduct have a direct impact on the team? Commitment, hard work, discipline and the drive to succeed should be the Bible of any official. Apart from having a technical and tactical knowledge of the game, the above attributes are of critical importance to the shaping of a good coach - or rather a good human being I should say.

At this point I would like to once again reiterate that a basic code of conduct can only be maintained if the Indian Hockey Federation signs contracts with players/officials.

Cedric D'Souza

Mail Prem Panicker