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October 1, 2000

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Rift threatens to split the Dutch

Jaideep Singh  in Sydney

Holland's gold medal winning team is torn by an internal rift where the confrontation between the players and coach is peculiar for a champion side.

Usually such rifts are more pronounced among losing teams, and these come to surface after things start falling apart.

Having won the Olympic, World Cup and Champions Trophy, the Dutch went into the Sydney Games as the holders of field hockeyís own version of a Grand Slam. But not everything was right between the team management, which is personified by the coach, and the players. The players were not following his line and the coach was adamant that he knew the strategies the best.

In his moment of triumph after Holland became the first team to retain the menís crown since Indiaís record Olympic gold sequence ended in 1956, Dutch coach Maurits Hendriks wasnít sure of what the future had in store for him.

He took over as coach one-and-a-half year ago when Holland were the reigning Olympic and World champions. The players had a set pattern and continued to think they knew what they were doing. Hendriks made it known in no uncertain terms that he was the coach and they'll have to follow his pattern.

The slanging match between them continued after the Champions Trophy win at Amsterdam this summer and even came into the Olympic arena. Things came to the fore when Holland seemed on the brink of elimination until Britain's shock win over Germany allowed the Dutch to sneak into the semifinals on basis of a superior goal differential.

"I donít know about the future --- it's been a difficult year-and-a half," Hendriks said, standing on the edge of the pitch after Holland had been crowned Olympic champions again. "It was a difficult period. The players were very experienced and it was difficult for them to follow my line," he said.

Following his line or not has been the bone of contention and the players sometimes did not do that, provoking Hendriks to assert his position.

The controversy has come out of the closet, but Hendriks for now wants to cherish this moment before returning home and considering his future.

The two gold medals in a row feat, says Hendriks, will not be seen again very soon.

"That's incredible to get two golds in a row," he said. "I think that's something in history that you won't see again so quickly.

"We're talking about a special generation of players."

Hendriks said the Dutch triumph emerged from their experience.

"It was amazing that we came back after Korea tied the game 3-3 and my team's experience had a lot to do with it," he said.

Dutch skipper Stefan Veen, who scored all three goals in regulation period, said the team had come through a trying period.

"Today the Dutch team again proved what a closely knit team could achieve," he said, an obvious reference to the continuing rift.

Veen said he had a feeling that the final will also be decided on penalties after South Korea staged a late rally.

"I was prepared for the tie-breaker. I somehow had this feeling that this final will go into penalty strokes and the extra-time will not produce a golden goal," Veen said. "And when the tiebreaker started I was confident that we'll win again."

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