Tue, Mar 11, 2008 - Page 19 News List

India's field hockey coach resigns after qualification failure

AFP , NEW DELHI

India field hockey coach Joaquim Carvalho resigned yesterday after the eight-time Olympic champions failed to qualify for the Beijing Games.

India crashed to a 2-0 defeat to Great Britain in the final of the qualifying tournament in Santiago, Chile, on Sunday night, ending a proud record of having played in every Olympics since 1928.

"When I took over 11 months ago, I had said I would resign if I cannot deliver results," Carvalho told Indian media in Santiago. "So now I am keeping my word. I am as disappointed and hurt as any other Indian hockey fan."

Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC) vice-president Narendra Batra also resigned, hoping to put pressure on the entire IHC administration, led by Kunwar Pratap Gill, to step down.

"I am ashamed because all of us have failed," Batra said. "This is the lowest point in Indian hockey and we in the federation must take the blame for it."

There was, however, no reaction from Gill, the former "supercop" credited with wiping out Sikh militancy in Punjab in the 1980s.

Batra was, however, not convinced that any attempt would be made to overhaul the sport's administration.

"Is anyone really concerned?" he said. "The sports ministry has already demoted hockey as a priority sport although it remains our national sport."

"Gill and the others will lie low for a few days and the debacle will be forgotten soon. We will be back to square one," Batra said.

Signs that India was headed for a major fall were evident over the last decade.

Since winning the last of their eight Olympic golds at the Western-boycotted Moscow Games in 1980, India claimed just one major title when Dhanraj Pillay's men took the Asian Games gold in Bangkok in 1998.

India finished seventh in the last two Olympics and were forced to qualify for Beijing after failing to win an Asian Games medal for the first time at Doha in December 2006.

Carvalho, however, dismissed fears that Indian hockey would not recover from the latest defeat in a country where cricket rules.

"Failure to qualify for the Olympics is not the end of the road," the outgoing coach said.

"But we must start from scratch. We must retain the core team and perhaps even induct a few junior players. Some of the seniors will have to think hard about their future in international hockey," Carvalho said.

Former international Viren Rasquinha, who retired earlier this year to pursue management studies, said the exit from the Olympics was "one hell of a blow."

"It was almost taken for granted that we will be part of the Olympics," he said.

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