IHF to blame for not qualifying for Olympics: former internationals

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Mumbai, Mar 10 (UNI) Former international hockey players were scathing in their criticism of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), blaming it for India's darkest hour in hockey, as the team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1928.

An angry and upset former international player Darryl D'Souza, a 1992 Olympian while blaming the IHF for the failure of the national team to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games, asked the fans to desist from blaming the players for the debacle in Santiago, Chile, where the Indian team lost 0-2 to old rivals Britain and created a dubious history.

The 1992 Olympian also demanded an immediate dissolution of the IHF by the government.

''I have been very upset and angry from the morning. I will blame the IHF squarely and the coaching staff too for the wrong planning they had done in the run-up to the Olympic qualifiers. I feel extremely sorry for the players who will be blamed for no fault of theirs,'' D'Souza fumed.

''We never bothered to prepare for this tournament in the proper manner. We played against Western Australia and China in Australia and then against the Tamil Nadu team in Chennai. Tell me, is it the way to prepare for such an important tournament'', he wondered.

''They should have played against some top European teams like Germany or Holland. I am pretty sure Britain would have sent someone to watch our boys play in Australia and elsewhere to study them. Did we do any such thing?'' he queried.

He said, ''The only consolation is we cannot go down further and can only go up. But for that to happen soon we need to appoint a whole lot of support staff - coaches and assistants, etc, from abroad and allow them to function freely.'' Former international Marcellus Gomes too described the result, which means India will not be in the Olympics for the first time in 80 years since making a memorable golden debut spearheaded by the legendary Dhyan Chand in 1928 at Amsterdam, as ''unfortunate''.

''I did not watch the match, but the fact that we have not qualified for the Olympics shows we are not even in the top 15 teams since there were three qualifiers in all. It's totally unfortunate,'' said the erstwhile skillful midfielder who was a contemporary of Olympian Merwyn Fernandis.

Gomes was not averse to the idea of engaging a foreign coach for the team in the aftermath of the disastrous display.

''Perhaps, it's time to look at a foreign coach though I cannot say for certain whether there are not enough Indian coaches of calibre,'' he said.

Rome (1960) Olympian Joe Antic said that today's hockey is totally different from the glory days of 1940s and 1950s.

''They have changed the rules so much that it benefits the European teams more. The skill associated with the game is no longer there. It's power. And the media also ignores hockey,'' he rued.

UNI GS RN AB ND1848

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