Hockey India sacked Roelant Oltmas as the coach of senior men’s hockey team with immediate effect and made High Performance Director David John in charge of the national team till a suitable replacement is found. The decision was taken during the three-day meeting of the Hockey India High Performance and Development Committee. The high-profile meeting for the betterment of Indian hockey was attended by over 24 members.
“Key decisions taken included Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans to step down. While Roelant Oltmans role as Chief Coach in improving the teams’ overall fitness and cohesiveness has been appreciated, the results are what matter and the performance of the team has not been consistent or up to the desired levels,” Hockey India said in a release.
Roelant Oltmans had joined the Indian team as High Performance Director in January 2013 and took over as coach in July 2015 after the ouster of Paul Van Ass. The most notable performance for India under Oltmans was a silver medal at the Champions Trophy in 2016. He also guided the junior team to World Cup gold as an advisor.
A disappointed Oltmans said, “I was not expecting such a decision but the Hockey India took the decision to have a different direction and I welcome it. I just wish the team best of luck and hope it continues its progress.”
Harbinder Singh, chairman of the Hockey India selection committee said, “The Committee was convened since we are collectively not satisfied with the Indian Men’s Hockey team’s performance in 2016 and 2017 and feel that wins in Asia can’t be a benchmark for success anymore.” He further added, “The Committee unanimously agreed that immediate action was required to be taken and while change may not always be comfortable it is essential if we want to position ourselves as a serious global contender for the upcoming critical tournaments in 2018 including the Asian Games & World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games.”
Before Oltmans, many other foreign hockey coaches were shown the door unceremoniously, including Ric Charelsworth, Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh and Paul Van Ass.
A week before, Hockey India made another controversial decision by not extending the stint of Harendra Singh as coach of Junior hockey team. The chief coach, who led the 2016 Junior World Cup team to title triumph, was replaced by former India skipper Jude Felix. Harendra, whose assignment with Hockey India ended after the World Cup in December 2016, was not approached by the committee.
Earlier in 2017, Harendra Singh was invited by the Oman Hockey Association for felicitation and talks on how to improve hockey in the country, which was followed by reports in Muscat about him being possibly appointed as technical consultant. Though Singh himself denied any coaching job offer from Oman, it did not go down too well with the Hockey Federation.
Jude Felix, an Arjuna Awardee and captain of the national team from 1993 to 1995 was appointed as the coach. But his appointment raised a lot of questions about the use-and-discard approach of Hockey India.
However, Felix comes with a huge experience having played more than 250 international matches and represented India in two Olympic Games in 1988 (Korea) and 1992 (Barcelona), two World Cups in 1990 (Pakistan) and 1994 (Sydney), two Asian Games in 1990 (Beijing) and 1994 (Hiroshima) and three Champions Trophy in 1985 (Australia), 1987 (Pakistan) and 1989 (Berlin). He has worked as player cum coach with Racing Club in Paris (European league and French League) in 1997-2000. He also worked as the coach of Dutch U-18 national team in 1997.
“I am excited to take up this new role. The junior core group was picked on the basis of their performance in the National Championships and this group will be further pruned down to a 18-member squad for the Sultan of Johor Cup, our first international tournament for this year,” stated Felix. His previous stint with the national team was in 2014 when he assisted chief coach for men’s team Terry Walsh.