Indian Hockey stooped to a new low when it failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics to be held later this year. This is the first time in its history of 80 years that the Men’s Hockey team has failed to qualify for the event. Facing a do or die battle against Great Britain in the finals of the qualifiers, India lost 0-2. Barry Middleton (4th minute) and Richard Mantell (10th minute) scored for Britain, who then showed the discipline and character to withstand intense pressure and book the berth to the 2008 Olympics. Eight times gold medalist India, thus failed to make it to the Olympics for the first time, since their debut in 1928, adding an ignominious chapter to the game’s history which has seen more lows than highs in the recent times.
The early inroads by the opposition put India on the backfoot and they were unable to settle down. Midfielder Sardara Singh and Prabhjot Singh were given yellow cards adding to their woes. The Indian players also missed many chances of scoring. Indians failed to convert the 5 penalty corners, with neither Ramachandra Raghunath nor Dilip Tirkey being able to score a goal. India did knit together a few moves, but at the finish, it was the same old tale of wrong passes and too much of individual play. The defeat could be a blow to the Indian Hockey and it will be very tough for the game to recover from such disgrace. The defeat has started showing its repercussions with Coach Jaquim Carvalho quitting.
The former players have also blasted IHF for India’s failure. The main reason for India’s failure, according to former players, can be attributed to shortage of planning and coach’s insistence of not paying heed to Ric Charlesworth’s inputs. The selectors should also share the blame for not including in-form players Sandeep Singh and Arjun Halappa. The standard of the game has fallen to dismal levels with no proper infrastructure and flow of funds. It is the high time that Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) is overhauled. This defeat can be treated as a lesson to change the course of Indian Hockey.
Instead of desperation we need to regroup and make better strategies to improve the condition of our national game. Till date, 11 teams have qualified for the Olympic men’s competition. The one remaining spot will be taken from the winner coming from the last qualifying tournament in Japan. The automatic qualifiers are Australia (Oceania champions), Belgium (European bronze medalists), Canada (Pan American champions), China (hosts), South Korea (Asian Games winners), the Netherlands (European champions), Pakistan (Asian Games bronze medalists), South Africa (African champions) and Spain (European silver medalists).
[Image courtesy: http://im.rediff.com/sports/2007/sep/09ind.jpg]