|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, May 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Indian hockey needs professional approach
THE World Cup and Kuala Lumpur is now history and so is India’s performance. What has been done and what should have done is a matter which has been thrashed out minutely. Only one man has been indicted, the coach. The halo which was placed around his head for earlier showing has now been removed and thrown into the garbage can. He is no longer a hero.
Brazilians call the shots in Indian football
Sodhi travels from shooting to politics
Indian hockey needs professional approach
THE World Cup and Kuala Lumpur is now history and so is India’s performance. What has been done and what should have done is a matter which has been thrashed out minutely. Only one man has been indicted, the coach. The halo which was placed around his head for earlier showing has now been removed and thrown into the garbage can. He is no longer a hero. But then that has been the fate of so many coaches during the past decade. In fact, if anything has remained constant , it has been the continuing discovery that India cannot have a coach for perhaps more than one major international; be it the World Cup or the Asian Games.
It is not advisable to write off coaches so frequently. And at the same time it is not fair to dismiss Indian hockey as a has been. Hockey is a part and parcel of this country and it would be wrong to judge the importance of the game on the strength of the country’s performance in international fields. There has to be some way to give the game a fresh breath of air.
To this end a start could be made in Punjab. Irrespective of Punjab’s rather inconsistent showing in the nationals there is no denying that the roots of the game lie there. It was so before Partition when playing for Government College, Lahore, meant a virtual passport to the Indian national side. After independence the saying was that if a player was selected for Panjab University, it was not long before that he would be wearing the national colours. And that was converted to mean that playing for Combined University was only a step behind playing for the country. It must be admitted here that for quite a number of years most of the players wearing Combined University colours in the Nehru Hockey Tournament went on the play for India. Ajit Pal Singh is a prominent example. There are many others.
It is true that times have changed and Punjab does not figure as regularly in the final of the National Championship as it used to do so in earlier years. In fact according to records that last time Punjab played in the final of the National Championship was in 1989 and it then lost to Bombay. It is also true that a number of other states have also improved in the game and the National Championships is not a monopoly of any one team though Indian Airlines and the Railways do figure at the top quite consistently. But then they are institutional teams and draw on players from all states, including Punjab.
But teams from Punjab have been doing very well and this augurs well for the game. Hockey could again be a winner if a certain degree of proficiency is introduced by making it a paying proposition. In other words make hockey a ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ issue. Indian hockey players including those from Punjab, have been known to have taken part as professionals in club tournaments outside India. They would be more than willing to "sell" their skill within India if a regular tournament on a professional basis is conducted in the country. The best place is of course Punjab, the cradle of Indian hockey.
Once the players are paid sufficient
money the onus will be on them to maintain a level of physical fitness
and achieve a degree of proficiency. That in turn could improve the game
considerably. Hockey could do with a professional approach now. All
other means have failed. Money has made a great difference to other
sports. It could do to hockey also.
Brazilians call the shots in Indian football
INDIA is emerging as a leading market for second-string footballers from Latin America, particularly Brazil, and Africa, who are increasingly calling the shots in the country’s premier tournaments.
African footballers, particularly Nigerians, Kenyans and Ghanaians, made their appearance in India in the 1980s, but at present it’s the Brazilian samba that the country’s football clubs are dancing to.
But experts say the foreign brand of soccer is taking its toll on indigenous talent.
From being an appendage for attraction’s sake, foreign players have emerged as pivots round which a team’s fortunes revolve.
If it was Nigerian striker Chima Okerie who ruled the roost in Indian football in the 1980-90s, it is a wily Brazilian, Jose Ramirez Barreto, who is the toast of the game now.
But why do footballers from Brazil, a leading team in global football, come to play in India, a country that ranks a poor 129th in the world?
Barreto, Carlos da Silva, Amauri da Silva and Wanderley Weis, the four Brazilians currently playing club football in India, are trendsetters in this country though in their own nation they are at best second-string.
Admits Amauri da Silva, who played this season for the Mohun Bagan club, which won the National Football League: "I was not really getting anywhere in Brazil. My agent told me there was an opening in India, so I decided to come over."
For Barreto, hailed as one of the best strikers to have set his foot in India, it has become virtually immaterial how he ranks against giants like Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo back home.
"They are great players and there is no comparison," Barreto said as he left for home after leading Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan to their third National Football League title since the tournament began five years ago.
Says a football administrator in Kolkata: "The kind of money they are getting playing in India, they can never hope to earn in Brazil. But once they perform well here, they do try their luck in Europe."
While the Africans brought in a raw, brute style of football that ruled the game here for some years, the switch to the more skilful Latin American style did not go unnoticed.
Suddenly Indian football was a mixture of Latin American and African skills. Needless to say, the Indian style was relegated to a mere add-on.
While the interest of foreign players in club soccer in this country is an encouraging sign that professionalism is finally coming to the Indian football, it has also raised questions about the quality of the game of the indigenous players, who are being overshadowed by foreigners. This has raised questions about the future of Indian football.
Though Indian football was serious business till the 1960s, when India won the Asian Games gold in the discipline, the standard fell rapidly thereafter, primarily because it remained restricted to three clubs of Kolkata — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting.
The rivalry between these three became the staple of football lovers and administrators, who have not looked beyond club soccer or made long-term plans for the development of the game at the indigenous level. Understandably, the concern is that the standard of the national team, for which only Indians can play, might be lower than that of a club like Mohun Bagan.
Said football writer Saibal Bose: "Recruiting foreign players has now become a necessity for winning tournaments because they have become the nucleus of a team. There is this overall downtrend of skill among Indian footballers, which is being made up for by recruiting foreign players, who are mostly mediocre in their own countries but are good enough by Indian standards."
Now about 40 foreign players, mostly from Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, play in clubs throughout India. According to Indian football rules, a club can register up to five foreign players a season and field three in one match.
When the trend of featuring foreign players started in the early 1980s, most were African students who had come to India for a degree but ended up playing football for a modest amount of money. The most famous was Nigerian Chima Okerie, who subsequently ruled Indian soccer for over a decade and is considered as one of the finest strikers to have played for Indian clubs.
"These guys have become crucial players in domestic football," agreed Vasco coach Dereck Perera, a former international himself. Vasco finished within the top five in the national league and has a Brazilian to thank for that: Wanderley Weis.
"They are quite disciplined and, despite the occasional communication problems, they are easy to handle," Perera added.
Barreto is unsure whether he will be back. If he isn’t, the national league champions might well try out another Brazilian in his place.
A Brazilian agent has contracted all these players and with the transfer season about to begin, more players from the Latin American giant will surely be tried out.
However, all the coaches agree that with the mixing of African and Brazilian football, the Indians stand to suffer.
"If you look at the number of
goals scored by the foreigners in the National League this year, you’ll
realise that the Indians were relegated to just completing the
numbers," a local football administrator rued. IANS
THERE is no short route to success. This is what world accomplished coach Dr. Donato di Ponziano emphasised upon his pupils in a five-day clinic (April 22-26) at the Classis Golf Resort.
"Talent, technique and temperament are important in every sport. Particularly in golf in which one is engaged in competing against oneself", Donato impressed upon his trainees, adding: "Success will be achieved by only those who assiduously seek it,"
Addressing his students that "mind you, there will be no gain without pain", the Italian coach with proven knowledge and ability impressed upon his trainees that ‘hail, heat and storm, they should be on the course to practice’. "The more you plough it, the more you will get it out of the game", advised Donato before concluding the camp.
Donato, who is held in high esteem by many leading Indian pros, was highly pleased with the bunch of juniors, amateurs and also Indian coaches, who were attending his lessons for the first time. "The Indian coaches induction in the camp is a very happy augury and now there is possibility of follow-up of the training", said Donato.
Aditya Singh and Ahirban Lahiri, Donato thought were the best among juniors. "Their technique is sound and they possess a lot of promise. Their swing and follow-through are modelled on scientific technique. No wonder they are able to hit a long ball." what he advised them and other juniors was that they should work on their physique so that they are able to hit a long ball. "The longer and straighter one hits, the nearer one is to one’s goal", was Bonato’s oft-repeated sermon.
Nonita Lall Qureshi, Karan Bindra, Romit Bose, Vijay Diveja and Jesse Grewal were the pick among the coaches. Donato impressed upon them that they should see to it that their pupils were fully focused and dedicated to the game.
The training schedule was split into two sessions 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The sun was scorching, but Donato went from one trainee to another to impress upon them that fundamentals are the same regardless who is the coach. "If your basics are correct the progress will be quick", he advised his group of trainees.
About mental sharpness, Donato’s view was that the juniors should be left alone to concentrate on their technique and style at their level. "When they become proficient, they should be impressed upon to develop their mental alertness. If a player lifts a long ball and straight, most of his problems are automatically sorted out", he declared.
Donato, one of the coaches appointed by the Royal and ancient Club (Scotland), loves to travel to India. "Golf has caught the imagination of people here and what is essential is that the juniors should be provided more exposure at home and abroad to develop their own winning style and temperament", Donato said.
All trainees expressed satisfaction at the India Golf Union, which had made adequate arrangements for their lodging and board at the resort where ITC showed that it was still involved with golf although it had recently withdrawn sponsorship from the Indian open.
The trainees, young and not so young,
were unanimous in their opinion that this kind of clinic was beneficial
to them. Donato is now expected to travel to this part of the country
again in August. Maybe, he should visit Delhi between October and
February when the weather is kind for him and youngsters to put in
harder work on the course than in the month of April.
Sodhi travels from shooting to politics
A steady rise from being an international shooter to a politician. This is the story of Rana Gurmit Sodhi, who is now an executive member of the Indian Olympic Association as well as of the National Rifle Association of India. He was also the press attache to the Indian contingent in the Sydney Olympic Games. He also took part in the 1978 Asian Games at Manila and Commonwealth Games.
When asked what led him to politics, Sodhi said it was his urge to serve the people. In Ferozepore, most of the politicians have done little to uplift the living condition of its people, he feels. In 1976, under late Sanjay Gandhi, he joined the Congress. Late Darbara Singh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab made him the general secretary of the Youth Congress in 1982. In 1997 he was inducted as a PCC member and in July, 1999, but in charge of media for the party in the state. After the Adampur bye-elections, where he worked to ensure Congress candidate’s victory, he was elevated the post of general secretary, PCC. Sodhi contested from Guru Harsahai and won convincingly. Sodhi, who now is the political secretary, feels it is sports and the qualities learnt in the playing area which are playing a pivotal role in his day-to-day management of affairs.
He is interested in cooking also and learnt to cook Mughlai food from late Raja Bhalendra Singh, grandfather of Capt Amarinder Singh. His wife Tina Sodhi and son Hira also practice trap shooting.
Sodhi evinced hope for better days for
sportspersons in Punjab and said the state government was totally
committed to restore glory to sports in Punjab. He also assured proper
infrastructure, and said deserving sportsperson would be given
incentives and other benefits.
Hats off to Indian cricket team
HATS off to the Indian cricket team for the historical victory over West Indies in the second Test at Port of Spain on April 23. All 11 players in general and Ganguly, Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Nehra, Zaheer and Harbhajan in particular made this feat possible after a gap of 26 years as India’s last victory in West Indies was way back in 1976. This victory has brightened the hopes of an overseas Test series sweep by India after a gap of 16 years. Saurav Ganguly also deserves kudos for his balanced captaincy and he has proved his critics wrong. It will be very unfair if one does not mention the brilliant century by Sachin in the first innings. Also, ‘Man of the match’, V.V.S. Laxman deserves praise for his brilliant knocks in each innings. Although, he could not get a hundred, displayed superb class. Another worth mentioning performance was from Ashish Nehra. Had he not claimed the wickets of Lara and Hooper at the right time, India’s victory could have been doubtful. Saurav and his boys should not get carried away by this victory and work hard to win the remaining matches as well.
SANJAY CHOPRA, Kapurthala
Kudos to India who got the better of the West Indies to register a historic victory in the second Test. In a ding-dong battle for supremacy, India kept their cool to emerge winners by 37 runs. Actually the venue, Queen’s Park Oval, has often been a happy hunting ground for India. It was here that India won in 1971 and in 1976 again managed to overhaul a stiff target of 404 which till date remains a world record for the highest successful run chase for a side batting fourth. However, there is no need to go overboard and the advantage gained should not be frittered away. The Windies have been pressurised if they are to win the series. It does not make cricketing sense to count our chickens before they are hatched.
TARSEM S. BUMRAH,
Why are Services teams not performing well at the national level? Earlier, in inter-Services meets, seven teams used to participate, including five Army command teams, one Air Force team and one Navy team. In the league, comprising 21 matches all the players got an opportunity to show their talent. If a player was not able to perform well in one match, he got another opportunity to excel. At present, for the inter-Services championships, the Army Sports Control Board projects two teams (Army Red and Army Green) out of five. The league matches are also reduced to six. As a result, the number of teams are also reduced to four, instead of seven. In Army Red and Army Green teams, a few senior players are only given a chance to play. Thus, neither is the young crop getting an opportunity to play at the national and inter-national levels nor are they able to attend coaching camps.
SGT V.K. RANA, Chandigarh
India’s success in football immediately after Independence was not due to the administrators of the game but due to the nurseries prepared by the British. For example Amritsar at the time of Independence was a small city with many football grounds. All these grounds have now vanished. Where should the children go for practice? The administration built houses at these grounds. No politician ever criticised this anti-sports step of the administration.
UJJAL SINGH, Amritsar