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'Umpire succumbed to pressure tactics'
July 13, 2005 17:25 IST
India's junior hockey team forward Veerasamy Raja has been spending sleepless nights since the country was "robbed" of the bronze medal in the just-concluded Junior World Cup at Rotterdam. He feels the umpire succumbed to pressure tactics, denying India a certain goal in the match.
Raja, who returned home in Chennai on Tuesday, said the goal, overruled in the bronze medal play-off against Spain, was a clear one as he had deflected into goal a grounder by Sandeep Singh.
"The umpire must have been fickle-minded and succumbed to the pressure tactics adopted by the Spaniards," he said, referring to the umpire's decision to first award a goal and then disallow it.
Having lost the semi-final to Australia, India later went down to Spain 5-6 in the bronze medal match.
Raja, who has made rapid strides on the international stage since his debut in India's gold medal-winning campaign in the 2003 under-16 Asia Cup in Bangladesh, said, "I cannot get over that scene, which is vivid in my memory."
Narrating the incident, Raja said he had to get out of the close marking defenders to deflect a grounder by Sandeep Singh, following a free hit.
In no way could it be considered dangerous play. The announcer had also twice stated that India's jersey number 19 scored the goal, he said.
The fact was the umpires took more time than necessary to come to a decision.
Raja said he went to the sidelines to drink water, as the players were rejoicing, and then moved to the centre line.
"At this stage, the Spaniards were arguing with umpire Nathan Stagno, who stuck to his earlier decision. But after talking to the other umpire Klein-Nagelvoort Eric, the decision was reversed," he said.
Raja, whose father was a national level volleyball player and younger sister a junior hockey player, said, "Our team was rated as the fittest amongst the World Cup squads."
The Indian star forward, who has represented India in four internationals, including the four-nation tourney in Pakistan this March, where India won gold, said the team had prepared very well and he learnt a lot from the World Cup.
"I have learnt a lot from the World Cup. Most importantly, I was able to put in action the method of receiving the ball, taught at the Hyderabad camp.
"I was on target mainly because I was able to approach the ball, to receive it, and the rival players had difficulty in tackles."
Raja, who hopes to play in the 2008 Olympics in China, opined that India had a tough match against hosts Holland (4-1), as the luck of the draw would have it and had to face Spain in the league tie the very next day.
"We were rather tired, but the whole of the first half belonged to us. Our coach did a wonderful job.
"The team was well knit. Coach Harendra Singh and trainer Saju Joseph did a marvellous job and were a source of strength to us in all our matches," he added.