Nobbs urges former players to help, not bash Indian hockey

Aug 14, 2012, 08:17 IST | Ashwin Ferro

MiD DAY talks to India's hockey coach Michael Nobbs, who urges former players to help instead of indulging in 'ignorant bashing'

The Indian hockey team ended up with its worst ever show at the Olympic Games — a wooden spoon finish. And the man in charge — chief coach Michael Nobbs — is understandably angry and disappointed with the result.

The Indians lost all their six matches in London (2-3 vs Netherlands, 1-3 vs New Zealand, 2-5 vs Germany, 1-4 vs Korea, 0-3 vs Belgium & 2-3 to South Africa in the 11-12th place classification tie)

India hockey coach Michael Nobbs during a training session in Essex last month before the London Olympics. pic/afp

finishing last at the Games. Coach Nobbs admitted there is some serious analysing to do, moving forward.

“There are lot of questions and they can only be answered after we do a thorough analysis of the tour. I’ve been coaching this team for 12 months and the results of these Olympics are extremely disappointing and frustrating. It makes me angry, wondering why things went so wrong after a good year where I thought there were signs of improvement,” Nobbs told MiD DAY yesterday.

There has been an immediate call, from former players and
coaches, for heads to roll. After all, skipper Bharat Chetri & Co fared poorly at an event that has seen India clinch gold eight times before.

However, Nobbs cannot comprehend all the fuss. “The first reaction from everyone — media, former players, who did it better in their heyday — is to sack everyone. People believe if we drop players and replace officials, everything will be alright. Well, we had some of the top coaches in world hockey — Ric Charlesworth, Jose Brasa — come in to try and fix the problems here, but nothing changed except the faces. If we look into the past, India hasn’t been in a Champions Trophy final for the last 32 years. In fact, it has finished consistently in the bottom half of every major championship for so many years now. We have experienced enough pain over the last 30 years and it’s high time we wake up and do something about it.

“Significant programs are just being started, but they are going to take time and all those people, who are merely indulging in ignorant bashing, must come forward and say they want to help,” explained the Australian.

Nobbs noted that European nations form the powerhouse in world hockey today because they have elaborate systems in place to encourage the game at the grass root level, something that’s lacking in India.

“After watching the top teams like Germany, Holland, Australia compete, one can tell that it’s a culmination of programs that we can barely envisage in our country, India. Programs that develop coaches, have consistency of education, so that when players come through the system, they are already taught the basics required at top-level hockey. An illustration of this is basic trapping. We have great skills, but somehow along the way, we have forgotten to trap the ball. The top teams mistrap six to eight times per game while we do it 20-plus times. At the domestic level, we play very soft hockey that comprises of loose markings and unnecessary ball dribbling. The world’s top teams though are tough and ruthless. Their marking is very tight, they quite literally hold onto your shorts, stick to your body and tackle fiercely. We are far from doing all this,” explained Nobbs.

So what’s the road ahead? Nobbs is open to change. “A significant change is required. These things are difficult and will take time. To go back and do the same old things that will, and have never worked, is like giving a Panadol to someone who has cancer and saying you’ll be alright,” he signed off. 

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