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There's still time for Olympics: India's goalkeeper Sreejesh

India goalkeeper says preparations for next year's Rio Games unaffected despite news of coach Paul van Ass' sacking. Team continues training under High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans in Shilaroo

Indian hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh likes to take issues head-on, just like he confronts opposition forwards attacking his goalpost.

India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. Pic/Solaris Images
India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. Pic/Solaris Images 

Reacting to news reports that chief coach Paul van Ass had been sacked on Monday even as Hockey India president Narinder Batra maintained that the Dutchman wasn't
official removed, Sreejesh said he and the team could not afford to dwell on such things and would rather continue their hard work keeping in mind next year's all important Rio Olympics.

'No official word yet'
"There is no official confirmation given to us about this (sacking of Van Ass). Whatever we know is from newspapers and TV channels. For now, Roelant Oltmans (Hockey India's high performance director) has been conducting our training here and we are working with him. If the news of Van Ass is true, we players have little to do with it," Sreejesh told mid-day after a training session at the Sports Authority of India centre in Shilaroo, Himachal Pradesh.

Contrary to popular belief that the team's preparations for next year's Rio Olympics would be hampered by Van Ass' sacking, Sreejesh said it was not necessarily the case. "Look, there is still one year for the Olympics (Aug 5-21, 2016), so we have time to prepare.

London disaster hurts
"We are working hard with the sole aim of performing well in Rio because we don't want to repeat the disaster of the last Olympics. So, if Hockey India brings in a new coach or if Roelant continues to train us, we will co-operate 100 per cent," said the 27-year-old Kerala man. The Indian hockey team embarrassingly finished last at the 2012 London Games. This, after failing to qualify for the previous Olympics in Beijing for the first time in 80 years.

Backing Hockey India
Finally, though the veteran 'keeper preferred to back Indian hockey's governing body, he admitted that Van Ass had done a decent job in five months he's been in-charge. "As players, we cannot ask for any particular coach. We will accept whatever Hockey India decides and at the end of the day, they will take a decision, which is in our best interest. Hockey India has always been there for us and provided the best facilities," said Sreejesh, praising Van Ass nevertheless.

"We need enough time to understand a coach. Paul was trying to create a new system keeping in mind the Indian style of play. Every coach has his style and his positives. Paul has given us some good technical inputs and also motivated us.

He's a very good manager and knows how to handle players. In his first major assignment, we played well and won the Sultan Azlan Shah title in Malaysia. Then, we did well in the Test series against Japan, and finally, a fourth-place finish at the recent Hockey World League Semi-finals was not a bad show either."

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