As a foreigner I'll have to adjust to the system, says new India hockey coach
India has always been a difficult place to work for any foreign coach because of its culture and bureaucratic hurdles, but the new chief coach of the men's hockey team Paul van Ass today said he has no other option but to adjust to the system.
New Delhi: India has always been a difficult place to work for any foreign coach because of its culture and bureaucratic hurdles, but the new chief coach of the men's hockey team Paul van Ass today said he has no other option but to adjust to the system.
"It's different (working in India). Different doesn't has to mean it is better or worst, it's simply different. As a foreigner, we have to adjust (in India), we have to adjust to the system," Van Ass told reporters in his first interaction with the media at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here after taking over the reigns of the team.
Working in India as a coach and that too in a high-pressure sport like hockey has never been easy for a foreigner. Indian hockey has witnessed the arrival and departure of many foreign coaches over the years as the specialists from abroad have found it difficult to adjust to the Indian system.
Barring High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, who has survived the tide for over two years and is still going strong, Indian hockey has witnessed the acrimonious exits of three foreigners -- Spaniard Jose Brasa and Australian duo of Micheal Nobbs and his successor Terry Walsh under whom India qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after winning the Asian Games gold in Incheon after a hiatus of 16 years.
Asked about the problems and pressure which comes along with the India job, the 54-year-old Van Ass said: "Don't forget we have to leave our families, we have very limited opportunities to go home. So, it is hard, it's a hard job.
"It can happen in sport that your cycle suddenly becomes shorter than it was to be. I look at this as a normal fact of life. But I am not thinking about these things at the moment.
What will happen will happen."
The Dutchman, under whose guidance the Netherlands won silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics and last year's World Cup, said he is ready to accept the country's culture for the love of Indian style of hockey.
"For me the biggest challenge is not training the players. For me the reason to leave my family is to know and feel how things are working over here, I call it sociology. It has all to do about knowing the culture. That's what I am lacking and that's what I want to learn. How the culture works here.
"I know here expectations are high. In India the expectation now is to move up. There will be moments when you will feel alone and hurt but I am used to it. I don't see it as a problem," he said.
Interestingly, Van Ass has brought along with him a book titled "Hinduism In Modern Times" which presently he is studying to know the Indian culture.
Talking about his goal, Van Ass made it clear that even though he hopes to guide India to a podium finish in next year's Rio Olympics, he can't shy away from reality.
"There is always something between hope and reality. The hope is India will get a medal in the Olympics but we also have to be realistic. The Indian team is climbing up but let's be realistic. From 12 in the Olympics and 9th in the World Cup, now we are supposed to get a medal in the Rio Olympics in 16 months time. We hope to get a medal and all our efforts will be to maximise our chance of getting a medal," he said.
"For me the real target is the Hockey World League Final in December. It will give us a chance to measure our progress because by then we will have enough time to get adjusted to each other. It will be an interesting tournament for us because there we can assess whether we are lacking in some areas or do we really have a chance," he explained.
"The development of the game is already there and I hope to pick it up from there. I want to continue this climb up the ladder. That is the main target."
Van Ass knows the challenge that comes with the India job, but he said he can't afford to reject the opportunity because of his love for Indian style of hockey.
"They (Indian players) are very skillful. That's one of the reasons I always said besides Holland there is one country which I want to coach if I get an opportunity is India. When I started playing hockey at the age of 10, my father always used to tell me 'look at the Indians and you try to copy them, then only you will be a good player'," he said.
"You can see that skill on the pitch and that's the reason why I decided to come over.
"India is playing with heart and technical skills. Every coach can make the chain a little bit stronger and hopefully we can continue to climb on the world rankings ladder. The Asian Games gold proves that India has risen."
The new chief coach said although there are areas to work upon, he is no mood to change their style of game.
"The gap is closing. They can improve in a lot of ways. The good positive point is the technical skill but they need to be more cooler when put under pressure because thats when they do things in haste. That's a process and I hope we can address it.
"But what I really liked is that they have kept the Indian style of play. We will not try to make it a Dutch team or another European team but yes we will try to bring in our knowledge. But for me what is important is the Indian way of hockey because that's what attract us," Van Ass said.
"I don't want them to unlearn things because that would go against the nature. But we will try to make the chain stronger -- the chain of defence, the chain of control, counter control. But Asian hockey is known for it's skill, creativity and that's the fantastic part. I hope I can leave that part with the players," he added.
Admitting that communication will act as a hindrance in discharging his duties as majority of the Indian players are not well versed in English language, Van Ass vowed to find out solutions to the problem.
"I don't speak Hindi but we speak the language of sport together. Communication is the biggest problem to tackle. That worries me. What is important for me is to connect and relate with the players.
"I will have to do visualising a lot, make lot of repetitions. Every other day have communication sessions together," he said.