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Claudius blames IHF for slump

Sirshendu Panth | May 30, 2005 16:44 IST

Hockey legend Leslie Claudius on Monday slammed the present functioning of the Indian Hockey Federation saying the entire nation was unhappy with the way the body was being run.

Claudius, who played four Olympics for the country winning three golds and one silver, held the IHF responsible for the falling standards of the game in the country and blamed incumbent president K P S Gill for not "doing much" to revive the past glory.

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"Gill and his group have not done much for 12 years. I don't know whether they will win again this time. The results cannot be announced now as per a court order. But if Gill and co win, that will not be good for Indian hockey," Claudius said in Kolkata.

"Yes, I'm not happy with the way the IHF is being run. Not only I, the entire country is unhappy. The Federation is greatly responsible for the slump in Indian hockey standards over the years," he said.

Claudius accused the IHF of "making a mess" of the preparations before last year's Athens Olympics by unceremoniously sacking Rajinder Singh (Sr) as coach.

"Under him the team was doing so well. But they suddenly sacked him and imported foreigner Gerhard Rach," said the 78-year-old, regarded as one of the greatest ever right halfs to have played the game.

Claudius, who led the Indian team in the 1960 Rome Olympics where the nation lost its monopoly over gold for the first time by going down to Pakistan in the final, said ideally the boys should have stayed on in India and practised before the Athens Games.

"But the squad was sent to some weak countries where they won a few matches. Did we gain anything by outsmarting weak sides? If they were to be sent abroad, they should have gone to countries who have strong teams," he said.

Claudius alleged that the IHF then only seemed interested in proving that foreign coaches were better than their Indian counterparts.

He felt that Gill should stick to his role as administrator, instead of meddling in the technical affairs.

"But this is not his job. We have so many brilliant former players who can handle the technicalities with aplomb," he said.

In this connection, Claudius asserted that the IHF should make sincere efforts to reach out to the former greats.

"They should involve former players in the development of hockey. We have got so many great ex-stars in every position. They can guide the boys."

Asked whether he would be game for an advisory role if the IHF sought his services, Claudius said "Why not? Hockey has made me what I am today. I'll always be there for hockey in any capacity. But the sad part is the present IHF bosses never seek my services."

"The problem in India is that the sports federation bosses only want their own men to occupy key posts. And Gill is no exception," said Claudius, who had served as the Indian team manager in the 1974 and 1978 Asian Games as also on the Australian tour in 1979.

He said such was the state of affairs in Indian hockey, that there was not even a proper selection panel for two-three years.

While describing the Premier Hockey League as a right move, Claudius, however, said that the level of play was below par and slow. "The matches, divided into four quarters, lacked in speed. But it did give hockey a very good media coverage."

He suggested that the IHF take the initiative in reviving school tournaments in the country.

"Sports should be made compulsory in the school curriculum. Though it may sound a bit cliched, one has to start from the grassroots. School tourneys are very crucial in this regard," he said.

On the performance of the Indian team at the ongoing Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia, Claudius said he was not impressed with the players' showing in the seven-nation tournament so far.

"The present standards are not very encouraging. The team lacks in individual brilliance. The players are also not combining well," he added.

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