Saturday, February 27, 2010

Laren Hockey Club to keep Oltmans

LARENSCHE Mixed Hockey Club (LMHC) of Netherlands made it clear on the official website yesterday that their coach Roelant Oltmans will not leave them for Malaysia.
The homepage, translated with help of Google said on Friday: “The board of LMHC put you informed about the situation with our technical director and coach trainer of men, Roelant Oltmans.
“Despite media reports continue Roelant Oltmans, the next two seasons, simply attached to the hockey club Laren.”
This announcement was made a day after National Sports Council director general Datuk Zolkples Embong said that Oltmans has only minor issues to iron out before taking over the reigns in Malaysia on May 1.

Media stage walk-out on FIH supremo Negre

NEW DELHI, Feb 27 (Bernama) -- Miffed by the "hostile" treatment given to the media, a group of journalists walked out as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) president was about to address a press meet today.
About 50 journalists, both local and foreign, vacated a press conference room in a five-star hotel, when Leandro Negre started to speak, when a Delhi-based foreign agency journalist interrupted to express his dissatisfaction.
A stunned Leandro started to apologise and pacify the media personnel.
"I am sorry, even I had difficulty entering the stadium today. This is all because of security," he said.
But the apology came a little late. Camera crew and journalists left the room, while FIH officials tried to continue with the press conference.
The 12th Hero Honda World Cup Hockey begins tomorrow in Delhi, under very tight security, after militant groups warned of possible attacks early this month.
-- With mounting pressure on the organizers, security had been tightened around the city and stadium, and journalists had been barred from entering the stadium to cover any warm up matches or carry electronic items, including laptops.
The World Cup would be played at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi from Feb 28 to March 13. -- BERNAMA

A security blanket of 19,000


NEW DELHI (AP) — A security blanket of 19,000 personnel will be employed to protect players and officials when the men’s hockey World Cup begins Sunday.
Apprehensions about security follow reported threats by some terrorist organizations against athletes visiting India. There will be security cordons put up in a three-kilometer radius around venues and accomodation.
“There were serious concerns about putting hockey players where their life is threatened when all they want to do is play hockey,” England team manager Andy Halliday said of the media reports. “So we went through a rigid investigation of the security arrangements and we’ve been happy with what we see here.”
Security staff, including police and a paramilitary force, are covering the team hotels — where all staff and guests must pass through metal detectors and security checks — travel routes and match venues.
New Zealand captain Phillip Burrows said one of his players withdrew from the squad before the team left for India and other players were worried about the security.
“Most of them were worried, but we’re happy with the security provided to us,” Burrows said.
Australia is the top-seeded team in Group B and opens the tournament against European champion England on Sunday, when archrivals India and Pakistan meet and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Spain takes on South Africa.
Germany, which is seeking a hat-trick of World Cup titles, will open Group A on Monday against Asian champion South Korea, while Netherlands take on Argentina and New Zealand faces Canada.
Despite winning the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, Germany’s squad in India contains only three World Cup veterans. But captain Max Muller is not bothered by the inexperience.
“Germany is a relatively young side, but then we won the 2002 and 2006 World Cups with different teams,” he said.
Matthias Witthaus, Moritz Furste and Jan-Marco Montag are the only players from the 2006 champion team left in Germany’s squad that went on to win the Olympic title at Beijing in 2008.
Germany’s strongest challenger over recent years has been Australia, which clinched its first Olympic Games gold medal at Athens in 2004.
The Kookaburras rallied from a two-goal deficit at halftime to beat Germany 5-3 in the final of the Champions Trophy in December.
“Australia seems everyone’s favorite for the title,” Muller conceded. “The Australian team is looking in very good form.”
Striker Jamie Dwyer, the 2009 world player of the year and a 2004 Olympic champion, will lead an Australian team coached by Ric Charlesworth, a former World Cup winner.
The strike-power of Grant Schubbert and Edward Ockenden will support Dwyer along with penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner, whose two goals sparked that turnaround in the Champions Trophy final.
The Netherlands are hoping to recreate the form that saw it win three major titles between 1996 and 2000 — two Olympics and a World Cup.
Seasoned goalkeeper Gus Vogels has two Olympic gold medals and wants to add another title in what will be his final event before retirement.
“A World Cup gold medal is all that’s missing from my medal collection,” said Vogels.
Tuen de Nooijer, among the game’s best midfielders in the past decade, and penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema will bolster the Dutch attack.
Spanish skipper Pablo Amat is hoping to go one better than his two Olympic silver medals.
England’s European Cup title has revived hopes it can repeat its run of the 80s, when it reached the 1986 World Cup final and won the 1988 Olympic gold in Seoul.
Two injuries in the last week have been a setback, but England captain Barry Middleton says his team has the ability to advance at least to the semifinals.
Pakistan is the most successful nation in World Cup history, winning the title four times, but its last triumph came in Sydney in 1994.
The decline of Pakistan and India has taken the spotlight away from the subcontinent, which dominated world hockey for more than half a century.
India’s lone World Cup title came in 1975. Since then, India has slipped in the rankings, occupying the ninth, 10th and 11th positions in the past three World Cups.
India won the last of its eight Olympic gold medals in the boycott-hit Moscow Olympics of 1980. Since then, it has not managed to even enter the semifinals of seven Olympics and World Cups spread over three decades.
After failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, India is hoping for more with the backing of the home crowd.

Clampdown keeps Pakistan players confined

While India is considering the World Cup a security test for the Commonwealth Games, an attack owing to security lapse, especially on Pakistan players, during the event would not only further sour diplomatic ties between the two neighbouring countries, it will also be a huge set back for the game which was once ruled by Pakistan and India. -Photo by Reuters


KARACHI: In a tight security clampdown, the World Cup hockey organisers in New Delhi have barred Pakistani players from venturing out of their hotel on their own amid simmering political tensions between India and Pakistan.
“We are not allowed to leave our hotel on our own. Whenever we travel, we travel with the team with an escort, not alone because of security concerns. This has been advised by the organisers,” Pakistan ace forward Rehan Butt told from New Delhi.
His team mate, Haseem Khan says he has been travelling to the venue only for practice matches owing to security measures.
“I don't think that we can go outside our hotel. At least I haven't dared to go outside my hotel alone so far,” said the mercurial forward.
The greenshirts are in the Indian capital at a time when political tensions are high between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and a diplomatic deadlock exists on the issues of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the insurgency in Kashmir that India accuses Pakistan of aiding.
Although Rehan and Haseem felt security cover was tight, Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf did not seem to be much impressed by the arrangements.
The skipper said security for the team was “satisfactory”, adding his side would be more focused on the game rather than coming under the influence of political tensions.
“Security is….just Ok. As far as the political tensions are concerned, we are not bothered about that. We are here to play hockey and that's it. It is their (governments') job to talk about these issues, while we are the ambassadors for peace. I don't think political scenario could affect our performance against India on Sunday,” said Zeeshan while talking to
Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan was similarly unimpressed by the security. The former Pakistan goalkeeper had reportedly said in an interview a few days ago that he did not see anything extraordinary in New Delhi and the security was nothing more than what it could be at an international event at home.
There is, however, a huge security threat in the wake of Pune bomb blast last week which killed 15 people. An unknown group, Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi had accepted the responsibility for the attack, linking it with Pakistan-India talks held on Feb 25.
An alleged Al Qaeda-linked militant Ilyas Kashmiri also reportedly warned last week of attacking sports events in India including World Cup hockey, Indian Premier League and the Oct 3 to 14 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Welcome to the chaos!

ONE FOR THE ALBUM:Team captains pose with the World Cup Trophy in front of India Gate in New Delhi on Friday.

NEW DELHI (THE HINDU): “Welcome to the chaos.” This is one of the posts on Facebook by a journalist responding to the visit from her fraternity to the Hero Honda hockey World Cup.
By the time the ball rolls on the lush green artificial grass pitch at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday an avalanche of words would have been written on the glitches surrounding the prestigious event in the FIH calendar.
It is difficult to recall whether any other world-level competition had ever drawn such negative reactions from the media in India. This is all the more regrettable since the media in the country was bracing itself to project the World Cup as a showpiece before the more glamorous Commonwealth Games in October.
Alas, everything has gone awry to the point that many countries may even wonder whether India is equal to the task in running the CWG.
Since the time the World Cup was sought and allotted to India during a meeting of the Indian and FIH officials, then headed by the dynamic Els van Breda Vriessman in Monchengladbach (2006), nothing seems to have been running along expected lines.
The special project fiasco, coupled with the humiliation heaped on the famous Aussie coach, Ric Charlesworth, followed by the suspension of the IHF, the takeover of the IOA, the formation of Hockey India and the hurried recognition by FIH to the unit that is now enveloped in a slew of court cases for urging the State units to disband and form new ones.
The whole chain of events mirror the pathetic mismanagement of a premier National sport hailed for its stars and their creativity. Added to the embarrassment was the display of player power at the wrong time and the consequent media blitz that blurred many important logical issues.
Terror threat
What has added to the poignancy of the whole scene was the terror threat following the blast in Pune that forced a clear and palpable tightening of the security apparatus at every layer. Teams preparing to be in India developed a sense of unease. New Zealand even delayed its departure and one of the talented set of players, Simon Child, cited it as the reason to stay back.
The Aussies had to be assured through several security experts' reports to come, although Charlesworth, the team's coach, pooh-poohed them as daily fodder in Indian networks.
The restriction imposed on the media from entering the main venue to watch the players train, understandably, drew a volley of protests, as did the delay in connection with the accreditation process. The Tournament Director, Ken Read, threw his hands up in despair pointing out the challenges as immense and not faced in any other event.
The arrival of the FIH Communication Manager tended to iron out some irritants but, it appears, the FIH is helpless and watching the situation as it develops with less than 48 hours to go for the flag-off. It is now decided that media will not be allowed to even enter the lobby of the official hotel.
Meanwhile, the sorry state of affairs relating to the 1975 World Cup heroes only underscored the festering mess. A dharna threat by the veterans eventually led to the matter being solved. First of all, why allow such things to drift, get a bad press and then relent.
Meanwhile, India, which beat Argentina and the Netherlands, seems to be moving on the right track. But that the team has to go a long way goes without saying.

The sorry story of Indian stars

INDIA Captain Ajitpal Singh with the World Cup Trophy in 1975.
— PHOTO: The Hindu Photo Archive

By Vijay Lokapally

NEW DELHI: The hockey stars of 1975 are a forgotten lot! That was the year when a bunch of ambitious men conquered the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. They were feted on return but only for a brief period and by a few States. The nation celebrated their deed but the sweet memory of that eventful day was not lasting.
In comparison, the 1983 team that won the cricket World Cup at Lord's continues to be feted. “We don't grudge them at all,” says Aslam Sher Khan, a key hero of that triumph. His sons played cricket at school. “But why ignore the hockey heroes if you call them so,” laments Aslam.
A few exhibition matches involving film stars were organised to raise funds for the 1975 team. The Uttar Pradesh Government gifted each member a two-wheeler. “Some State Governments gave cash awards but nothing for the Delhi members,” remembered Ashok Dewan, the goalkeeper who made a sensational save in the dying minutes of the final against Pakistan.
Aslam, who enacted a leading role in the 1975 victory, played for a few more years, and then penned a book titled To Hell With Hockey. His equaliser in the dying minutes of the semifinals against Malaysia is etched in gold. It gave Indian hockey a great fillip.
“But it did not last long. It was the last World Cup on natural grass and with it our hockey was buried by insensitive officials. We were ambassadors once but today we need a police verification to enter the stadium.”
Ashok Kumar, son of the legendary Dhyan Chand and a wizard with the hockey stick in his own right, scored the match-winner in the final, enjoyed the glory, but vowed never to allow his son to play hockey, just as Dewan.
Says Ashok, “I played against my father's wishes. He lived a life of penury and he did not want us to suffer the same fate.” The star of 1975 was engaged in procuring police verification on Friday to facilitate his accreditation to the World Cup.
The other day, Ajitpal Singh, captain of the 1975 team, was denied entry to the Dhyan Chand Stadium. One of the heroes of 1975, Virender Singh, retired from work as most of his colleagues, would not attend the matches. “I am not protesting. My wife is unwell. But hockey continues to remain a condemned sport. How can it be a National game? Who will pursue a sport that offers no security?” he asked.
Three members of the 1975 team — Surjeet Singh, Mohinder Singh and Shivaji Pawar — have since passed away. “Only a few among those remaining are involved with the game because there is little respect for us. We have never demanded the moon. But respect costs nothing,” says Ashok.
Some pleasant words came from Harcharan Singh, a retired Army officer. “Hockey is a lovely sport but mired in needless controversy. Times were different when we won the Cup but the game sadly did not prosper from that grand achievement.”
No son or daughter of any member of that team represented India in hockey. “Can't say why? Some did not allow. Some had kids who were not interested,” recalled Harcharan.
The exceptions happened to be Virender and Pawar. Their sons played some hockey at the domestic-level, enough to land jobs with the Railways.
In striking contrast is the cricket team of 1983. Six players from that team have sons who have excelled in the game. The heroes of that team continue to reap rich rewards even today. Every four years the nation remembers them.
Not the hockey stars of 1975. And what a pity the media campaign to attract spectators to the venue, to cheer the Indian team, does not include a hockey player.
That then is the story of Indian hockey and its ‘stars'!