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Can't fight the system, Terry: Michael Nobbs

Former India hockey coach Michael Nobbs shocked at successor's decision to quit; says Walsh should accept bureaucracy rather than be against it

Former India hockey coach Michael Nobbs (60) has reacted with shock to the news that his successor Terry Walsh (60) has decided to quit his job at a time when India's national sport is on a high. Australian Nobbs was in charge of the Indian team from June 2011 to July 2013 after which he quit citing health reasons, and recommended compatriot Walsh for the job.

Michael Nobbs
Michael Nobbs 

Under Walsh, the Indian team won silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games earlier this year and then clinched the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games to earn a direct qualification to the all-important 2016 Rio Olympics.

But yesterday, Walsh, in a letter to Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Jiji Thomson, said that he was resigning from his post as chief coach of the Indian men's hockey team as he is "finding considerable difficulty adjusting to the decision making style of the sporting bureaucracy in India which, in the long term, is not in the best interests of Indian Hockey or it's players."

Nobbs and Walsh played together for Australia and represented the team at World Cups, Champions Trophy editions, and Olympics among numerous other tournaments. It's no wonder then that Nobbs cannot comprehend the former centre-forward's sudden U-turn.

Terry Walsh. Pic/Getty Images
Terry Walsh. Pic/Getty Images 

"I'm shocked. Why would he resign after having qualified India for the Olympics. In fact, he now has some breathing space to develop the team further without too much pressure placed on him. He has certainly left them in the lurch," Walsh told mid-day yesterday.

'SAI were brilliant'
Contrary to Walsh's issues with the Indian system, Nobbs said it was smooth sailing during his tenure. "I had absolutely no problem with SAI. They were just brilliant. I would have thought Terry would have understood the Indian culture better and knew what to expect. Indian hockey is being dragged into the modern world with sports science and modern coaching techniques and these things take time to implement. The bureaucracy will always be there and you just have to work with it, not fight it. It's a battle you will never win," said Nobbs.

Family reasons
Walsh has given a second reason for his resignation — stress on family life — and that's something Nobbs comprehends as he too had quit with his health taking a turn for the worse in the high pressure Indian coaching job. "It's extremely tough being away from home for such long periods, compound that with trying to stay healthy, and it's an even bigger challenge.

Indian hockey has its added stress as everyone expects India to win a medal every time they play," said Nobbs, who warned though that Indian hockey is still in its infancy, and that too much should not be made of the Asiad gold or the Sultan of Johor Cup title which the junior India team successfully defended in Malaysia recently.

"Indian hockey, senior and junior, are making progress but India needs to be realistic. The recent wins have been against Asian countries that are also struggling. "The powerhouses of world hockey are very well prepared and the jolt will come not from the coach resigning, but when they start playing the Europeans and Australian teams at full strength.

Remember, it was not too long ago (in June), when India finished 9th at the World Cup (in the Netherlands)." Finally, is he open to the idea of returning as coach of the Indian hockey team, if approached? "No way, mate," Nobbs signed off.

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