New Delhi: India's hockey coach Paul van Ass is all set to be formally sacked following his bitter public spat with Hockey Indian President Narinder Batra after a special committee today recommended his removal from the post.
The nine-member committee headed by Olympian Harbinder Singh, formed to decide on his future, has recommended that Van Ass, who had claimed that he has been fired following his altercation with Batra, should not be continued.
As per the procedure, it is now for Hockey India to make a formal announcement about the Dutchman's future with Indian hockey. Van Ass had taken over as the coach from Terry Walsh, incidentally also sacked after a spat with Batra, just five months ago.
A top Hockey India official said President Batra will have discussions with High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans and Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials in the next couple of days before formally announcing Van Ass' ouster.
Van Ass, on his part, blamed an "autocratic" Batra for his ouster and said the recommendation to remove him did not come as a "surprise" to him.
"I knew the decision already. I am not surprised. He (Batra) was just finding ways to fire me and he did it. He should apologise for it (tarnishing my reputation)," Van Ass told PTI from his home in Rotterdam.
"I won't call him a dictator but he is an autocratic person. How can he single-handedly take all the decisions? How can he single-handedly fire me to please his ego? ," he said.
The development leaves India without a coach with barely a year to go for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics for which the team has already qualified by virtue of their gold medal in last year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The committee's decision also puts an end to days of uncertainty over the future of the Dutchman, who had gone on record to say that he was willing to come back as coach provided there was no interference.
"We gave our recommendation to Hockey India. Hockey India and Sports Authority of India will now take the final call," Harbinder said.
When prodded further, Harbinder said, "He has not yet submitted his report on Hockey World League semifinals. He is not taking our calls, nor responding to our mails. The tickets were sent to him but he lied he didn't receive any tickets. "
"Under such circumstances, the committee has worked under the assumption that Paul won't return. There is no question of him returning. But Hockey India will take the final decision based on our report."
Asked whether they had recommended the appointment of a
new foreign coach or give the reins of the team to High Performance Director Oltmans till the Olympics, Harbinder said: We are not mandated to talk about it. We have given our
suggestion to Hockey India and it is confidential."
It has been learnt that most probably Oltmans will be given charge of the men's team till the Rio Olympics as the committee feels with just a year to go for the mega event the Dutchman is the right person to take over the reins of the team instead of appointing a new foreign coach.
Oltmans has been associated with Indian hockey for nearly three years and knows the requirement of the team having worked with the players for quite some time now.
To add to it, the players also gell well with Oltmans and some have even aired their views of handing the reins of the team to the Dutchman after Van Ass' ouster.
Besides the Van Ass issue, the committee also reviewed India's performance in the Hockey World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium where they finished fourth.
The committee felt one bad tournament doesn't call for a drastic overhaul in the team.
"There is one year still left for the Olympics. We discussed what steps need to to be taken from here on to produce a good showing in the Olympics," Harbinder said.
The marathon four-hour long meeting at the Hockey India headquarters here was attended by Harbinder, B P Govinda, A B Subbaiah, V Bhaskaran, Thoiba Singh, R P Singh, Asunta Lakra Jasjeet Kaur and Hockey India CEO Elena Norman.
Van Ass has become the fourth foreign coach to be shown the door unceremoniously ever since Hockey India took over the reins of the game in 2009.
Van Ass's predecessors Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs and Terry Walsh -- all of whom were hired by Sports Authority of India on the recommendations of HI at hefty salaries -- also left the country on an unceremonious note.
Van Ass, who was appointed at the end of January this year, was awarded a three-year contract till 2018. The World League semifinals in Antwerp, earlier this month, was the Dutchman's second assignment with the Indian team.