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Indian hockey needs foreign coaches: Zafar

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | August 27, 2004 18:03 IST

Former Olympic hockey captain Zafar Iqbal has supported Indian Hockey Federation president Kanwar Pal Singh Gill's contention that there is no escaping the need to hire foreign coaches if the game has to be revived in the country.

Iqbal, who was a member of the last Indian team to win an Olympic gold medal, at Moscow 1980, said today that Indian hockey had reached its nadir and Indian coaches had failed to revive it.

"The time has come," he told, "when Indian hockey should have not only foreign coaches to brush up our hockey-playing techniques, but also a foreign trainer who would keep an eye on the fitness level of the Indian players. If you want to be a power in hockey, then you have got to spend money."

Iqbal, who led the team at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, lambasted the Indian hockey players in Athens for kicking up controversies after playing bad hockey and accusing the team's German coach Gerhard Rach of following wrong strategies.

"How can a coach give wrong instructions?" Iqbal said. "He would always want his team to win."

He said it was wrong of forwards Prabjot Singh and Dhanraj Pillay to blame the German coach. "We have seen all the games and we know what level of hockey our players played during the tournament," he said. "Gagan Ajit Singh could not connect the ball properly, Prabjot was off-colour, and so was Deepak Thakur. Dilip Tirkey and a half-fit Dhanraj played better than the others, and so did goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza. We saw eleven players playing the game more as individuals than as a team."

He did not agree with the suggestion that the last-minute change of the team's coach led to the disaster. "The coach can only give you a strategy, but it is the players who have to put that into action," he said.

He questioned the fitness of some of the players in the team and said half-fit players should not be included even on the bench. "We have even failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy," he pointed out.

As for those who had expected India to win a gold medal, Iqbal simply said they were not in touch with reality.

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