Shameless Gill, Now want to revive Indian hockey

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New Delhi, March 14: Unrattled by persistent demands for his resignation, Gill said he would not run away at this stage and blamed the poor umpiring and the nature of the qualification process for the debacle. "It is no doubt a setback. A challenge has been thrown at my face and I accept the challenge. I want to prove to the world that it is not because of the lack of talent or capability. I want to see Indian hockey on top again," Gill said in an interview on Wednesday

Gill said the nature of qualification process put immense pressure on the team. "It was a matter of how the team played on a particular day. One bad day can afflict any team, that day (final match against Great Britain) we played 10 per cent of our potential."

Gill said "umpiring assaults" on India played a big part for the team's failure to book a berth for the Beijing Olympics and he would take up the matter with the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

"The umpiring blunders have been happening time and again. I had taken it up for the first time in 1997. This kind of discrimination has to go. Such things can break the morale of any player," he said.

The IHF supremo spoke at length on a variety of topics ranging from his anguish to see India's current hockey plight and his strategy to revive the game during the interview.

Asked why he was still clinging to the post after being at the helm for 14 years, Gill said it was not the right time to go since he could still contribute something to the game.

"I had made up my mind to go in 2003. We had a number of memorable victories and we had beaten teams like Australia and Holland. But there was a request by a large number of people that I should continue. The team started going down and we failed to finish in the medal bracket in 2004 Olympics," he said.

"The team should have done much better in the last Olympics. I expect this team to pass through the same phase and I am sure it can bounce back again. I give myself two to three years. Once that happens, I will go," he said.

On whether he had convened a meeting of the office bearers to take stock of the situation and formulate a blue print for revival of Indian hockey, the IHF chief said "we already have a strategy in place."

The strategy was there even before the qualifiers. How is it that our junior team is at the top for the last few years. India had finished fourth in the last junior World Cup in Holland. These results would not be possible if there was no planning," he said.

Gill said the Olympic qualifying rules were changed this year and India would have made it to Beijing if they had won a medal in the Asian Games in Doha in 2006.

Expressing his unhappiness over the new qualifying system, Gill said the IHF was in favour of the old system and he would take up the issue with the FIH.

Gill said he has been having discussions with former players and administrators to take their inputs on how to revive Indian hockey.

"I have been having discussions with some former players and administrators in the last couple of days. I will take that into account when we draw up plans," he said.

Gill also lashed out at former hockey players who have been demanding his resignation and said they were "professional mourners" who take pride in running down the establishment.

"There is a coterie of five or six former Olympians who are just professional mourners. They just know how to do breast beating, howling and crying whenever they get the chance. That is their choice, I cannot do anything."

The veteran administrator also gave a thumbs up to the current Indian team and ruled out the possibility of drastic changes following the debacle.

"It is an excellent team, that they lost is a different matter. We cannot put all the blame on the players. I do not foresee any drastic changes in the team."

"We will be working on this team for the next couple of days. Of course some players may come and go because of injuries. But that is the case with all the players. They have the capability to prove their worth and mettle. The coaching staff will also show their mettle," he said.

Explaining the reasons for India's below par performances in events such as World Cup and Olympics, Gill said the problem with the Indians was that they took a longer recovery time.

"If you notice our performance in long tournaments such as Olympics and World Cup where we are required to play back to back matches, we never play well in the second match. That is because, according to experts, Indians take 36 hours of recovery time unlike European teams who mush less time."

"We are taking the help of scientific experts and top class physiotherapists to reduce our recovery time to 18 hours or so. That is why we have done well in shorter duration tournaments where the players get enough rest," he said.

On whether the lack of sufficient astro-turfs in the country had handicapped the growth of the game, Gill said the infrastructure would become better soon with the government coming up with a programme of installing more turfs.

He said 10-12 new astro-turfs would be laid in various cities by this year and many state associations have taken their own initiatives to have such turfs.

"By the time 2010 Commonwealth Games take place there will be 10 astro-turfs in and around Delhi. That would be a big boost for hockey," he said.

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