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Kaushik Column
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M.K. KAUSHIK COLUMN: Foreign Coach (2/25/2001)
--M.K. Kaushik
The proverbial ghost of foreign coach surfaced yet again. Recently, we all read in newspapers that the Indian Hockey Federation is looking for the ever-elusive element. We are in fact tired of such talks which never were taken to its logi-cal conclusion. Even as early as the 70s, men of wisdom like Ashwini Kumar, then holding the top office in the IHF set-up, foresaw the necessity of acquiring the services of foreign coaches and therefore mooted the idea of their import.

His move had an enormous meaning then. True, we were winning in those days but at the same time our technical weaknesses were showing up. That was why he wanted to nip the problem in the beginning. Unfortunately, not many supported him. His grand vision failed to take off. Since then, whenever our team fails to achieve success in the world fora, the subject of foreign coach is brought into focus.

Our policy makers and planners in various government agencies like the Ministry of Sports, Government of India and the Sports Authority of India had always kept the doors open for the inflow of technical knowledge. With their active support, we have expert coaches in the field of athletics, volleyball, boxing, and weightlifting and perhaps in a few more fields. They are paid handsomely and extended all other facilities.

All these agencies are willing to sponsor a right foreign coach for hockey too. Even some industry majors like ONGC, IOC and Tata are interested in such a meaningful endeavour. Keeping their track record in mind, I have no reason to doubt their sincerity. My only concern is whether we are really serious about foreign coaches or are we just shouting for the heck of it. Or, are these mere attempts towards saving our skin from our own acts of commission and omission?

Our problem, I feel, is not the coach. Let me make it clear that neither am I sentimental towards Indian coaches nor do I entertain aversion against foreign trainers. My only concern is the game and anything that is essential to take the country to the top should be considered an absolute necessity. So our problem is not coaches but the lack of professional approach. Still we have a few people who train national teams of other countries with distinction. Had we run our affairs like true professionals, by now we would have been ruling the roost as far as hockey is concerned. Professionalism is the only difference between India and the other hockey-playing countries, notably the European countries.

India lags behind even some Asian countries like South Korea and Malaysia in terms of managing its human and other re-sources. Even less developed countries like Singapore, Oman and Thailand manage their men and materials better than what we do. Certainly a lot needs change.

Without professionalism, without proper management, we often tend to lose direction. We too have good coaches, of world standards, but what happens is that our people are getting a raw deal at the hands of administrators. No fixed tenure is given to them. They are not given freedom to select the team. Every Tom, Tik and Harry interfere in his domain of activity. Technical support, say for example the videos of recent international matches, is another area found wanting. We lost the semi-final of the 1998 Commonwealth Games. I was the coach. Despite my best efforts, I could not get to see the video of the matches. That is the state of affairs.

The coaches are evaluated after every tournament, I can even say without hesitation, after every match. This is simply foolhardy. If the power that be are going to import a foreign coach, I will still welcome it. I only pray that the person would be provided with a better treatment. If our administra-tors are again going to interfere with his works, I won't see any prospects for him also. They won't tolerate them.

We surely need some drastic step to set the things in order. That includes the option of inducting a foreign coach. They are needed even if we are going to win the gold at Sydney. There is a system fault in hockey. Our domestic structure is faulty. There are glaring shortcomings in the scheduling of international matches too. We waste a lot of money on improp-er tours. I surely do not talk about freeloaders. This in itself is a different subject.

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