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London 2012: Olympic News
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Beware of Teun de Nooijer (7/29/2012)
--K. Arumugam
Beware of Teun de Nooijer

The Netherlands are an unlikely European country. Here even national team selection is not an exclusive right of coaches. Like India and Pakistan, the public opinion counts in areas which are exclusively the domain of coaching in other parts of Europe. Chief coaches of the national teams had to bow down to public pressure, which often hail poplar stars much against the perception of coaches.

In the mid 2000s, the public opinion forced appointment of foreign coach for the Netherlands’ national team. The irony of such appointment whereby the services of Australian Terry Walsh was requisitioned in the run upto Athens Olympics was the Netherlands were the depending Olympic champions. undefined

The burly De Roost, chief coach who brought Holland to finals of 2002 World Cup, had to go in favour of Terry Walsh, in 2003 and then Maurits Hendrics took over the reins. The politics and public opinion again forced the present coach Stephen van Ass to avail the services of Tuen de Nooijer and Taeke Takema. Those who watched the abovementioned duo would agree they were almost aged stars, not even aging, if their performance in the last two world cups are any indication. Taeke Takema, veteran at penalty corners, converted some goals only against India in 2006 World Cup, and that was not suffice for the country to make it to the semis. Pakistan added salt to the injury in the fifth place decider. The Netherlands was hardly a force either in the next World Cup or last Olympics. The teams lacked vibrancy which it showcased in the 90s. At the last world cups, the two veterans – Teun de Nooijer and Taeke Takema -- presented another dull chapter though there were adequate spells in which they sparked to a vintage polish. England put them aside in the crucial semis in Delhi 2010. This the big picture.

Presence of Teun de Nooijer, the wily inside forward who move like an eel in the periphery of the striking circle – the one who do so after Pakistan’s Shabaz Ahmad Sr. – in the tomorrow’s line up in normal circumstances must send a shiver down the spines of the Indians. Nooijer need not be that artistic, agile and aggressive for which he is known for, and is hailed as the world’s best. That he did not win the confidence of the present chief coach, who had dropped him early in the year, but had to take him back due to public opinion, like the case of Dhanraj Pillay in the run up to the Athens Olympics, speak in itself how much he is a spent force.

However, these veterans have a special attribute. They conserve their energy, and come up with a burst that blow up the rival team’s otherwise well-regulated game. They wait for their chance to change the course of the match, in which they almost are not noticeable. But in a split second they do damage.

What one remembers is the goal struck by veteran USSR player Servenko against India in 1988 opener. He was hardly a force in the match, but when presented a chance midway through the second half, and it was due to the fact that our players were protesting an umpiring decision, he struck the only goal of the match. India lost 3 valuable points. Had India at least drawn the match, we would have been in the semis. Nearly the same scene was there in 2006 Madrid World Cup (women) when Natascha Keller – who is now playing her fifth Olympics – struck to strip India of full three points.

Servenkos and Nataschas would not score many goals, would not spend full energy to make their indelible impression on the outcome of any match, they will do with characteristic ease and in their won bidding.

If India is casual with respect to Nooijer, the old horse will turn the tables. Nooijer will have to be taken care of. He may not be a bundle of energy in the mould of Sardar Singh. But has a hawkish eye on availing opportunities that comes his way.

He is no more a play maker par excellence at midfield, but a striker at upfront. He will try to encash self start and no offside rule. India need to take care of this guile gun if it entertains any idea of garnering full points on Monday.

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