New Delhi: Hockey India today described the government's decision to exclude its four key support staff, including a coach, from the Asian Games-bound contingent as "distraction", leaving its High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans in a state of "shock".
India's national game also had to face the brunt of the government's decision to prune down the Indian contingent for the Incheon Asian Games to 679 from 942 after men's team coach Jude Felix and scientific advisor Matthew David Eyles, and women's side physiotherapist Gaurav Mehra and video analyst Amutha Prakash were not cleared for the September 19 to October 4 quadrennial event.
Even though the move didn't go down well with Oltmans, he said both the men's and women's teams are focussed to deliver the goods despite the absence of the specialists. "I am shocked. In 30 years of my professional career, I haven't encountered such a scenario. It is impossible to manage a team without people in specific roles," Oltmans said on the sidelines of sending-off ceremony for the teams held at HI secretary Narinder Batra's residence here today.
"We were supposed to leave tomorrow but we still don't know when we are flying because we haven't got our tickets yet. These are all distracting us and throwing our plans haywire. "Our main focus now is to stay away from all these distractions and make sure that we perform to the level which we are capable of and if we do so, we have a fair chance," the legendary Dutchman said.
Indian men's team's chief coach Terry Walsh is also "disturbed" and "surprised" by the last-minute problems. "I just heard about some of these possible issues. Seems somewhat far-fetched to me. I can't control any of that so leave it to the people who can," he said. "Well this makes me really disturbed. We still don't know as to which day we leave and it is really important, that's actually is quite critical.
It's another of those issues which we can't control but we are working around. It is somewhat surprising that these things are happening at this stage of preparation," Walsh said. "We have got plans but things get changed. We don't get too bothered by it we just have to deal with the situation put in front of us."
HI's secretary general Narinder Batra too lambasted the Sports Ministry for the eleventh-hour exclusions of support staffs. Batra held Sports Secretary Ajit M Sharan and Sports Authority of India (SAI) Director General Jiji Thomsom responsible for the exclusions.
"We request for clarification and rationale from your office as to why these roles have been cut from the support staff of the teams, and we do understand that these deletions were done by Director General, Sports Authority of India and Secretary Sports, Government of India, but now the blame is publicly being put on the PMO by Secretary Sports and Director General SAI to save their skins," Batra said in a letter addressed to Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Stating that HI has submitted its tentative contingent list for Asian Games in October last year, Batra said the national federation is even ready to send the personnel at its own cost. "We wish to place on record that Hockey India had submitted the Sports Entry document on 22 October 2013 to IOA that included eight support staff for each the men and women hockey teams.
But due to limitations from the Organising Committee only six support staff are provided accreditation quotas with each of the teams and recommendation have been based on this. "At no stage during the last 11 months has any correspondence been received by SAI or Sports Ministry that Hockey India should be sending less support staff," he said.
"If the financial sanction is not available from the Sports Ministry or SAI then they should allow Hockey India to send these individuals at Hockey India's cost. This should be a priority in the interest of the athletes that are representing the country," Batra added.