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Home > Sports > Hockey > Reuters > Report


Viren fears no end to India slump

January 16, 2007 20:27 IST

Eight-times hockey champions India could miss out on the Olympics for the first time unless changes are made to the organisation of the sport, according to international centre half Viren Rasquinha.

"If we don't get serious and don't start acting now, we won't qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games," he said.

"As I see it, the best 33 players --- three players for each position --- must be selected and given the best coaching, diet and systematic training and tournaments right away," Rasquinha said.

"Merit should be the sole criteria and the players should be given confidence that they will not be dropped at the slightest mistake."

India's last chance of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics is early next year when three tournaments, consisting of six teams each, take place to decide the last three available slots.

Asian Games champions South Korea, runners-up China and bronze medallists Pakistan have booked their berths but India were bundled out in the group stages, failing to win a medal for the first time in the Qatari capital last month.

CONCRETE MEASURES

"Everyone is saying we can't sink any further, but that's exactly what's happening," added Rasquinha, who was dropped from the Asian Games squad.

"No one's doing anything about it. Unless concrete measures are taken we will only slide down further and further and I won't be surprised if we don't qualify (for the Olympics)."

India finished 11th out of 12 teams at last September's World Cup, were sixth at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and last in the elite Champions Trophy at home.

After the Asian Games, former Indian players called for the removal of federation officials who they felt had damaged the system in place to prepare teams.

Indian hockey has been in steady decline since the 1970s and 80s, coinciding with the game's switch to artificial turf with more emphasis on power, speed and accuracy than deft stickwork.

Their last major success was at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where the U.S.-led boycott meant only India and Spain were present from the 11 teams that had competed in Montreal four years earlier.

"The Indian federation does not seem to realise that the game has changed dramatically and a professional set-up needs to be put in place," former India captain Dhanraj Pillay told Reuters.

"If China can beat India, it shows how fast other countries are developing," the forward added.

© Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


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