Ipoh (Malaysia): One the first foreign coaches to have worked with the Indian team, German Oliver Kurtz feels that Indian hockey has become more professional now, the lack of which resulted in the eight-time Olympic champions slide in the last three decades.
Kurtz, who assisted countryman Gerhard Rach as coach of the Indian team in the 2004 Athens Olympics where the team finished seventh, reminisces his short stint with India and said a professional approach is key to any country`s success in modern day hockey.
"Indian hockey is more professional now. It is making a big difference. There is a totally different culture in Asia. Earlier, there was no professionalism in teams like India and Pakistan which I believe is a reason behind their fall in world hockey," Kurtz said on the sidelines of the ninth Asia Cup here.
"If you look at teams like Australia, Germany you will get an idea how professionally they work. The daily routine of these teams, the fitness level of their players...”
"Indian hockey is slowly becoming more professional. They have hired specialised people for every aspect of the game. In Hockey India League, India now has the world`s biggest and most expensive hockey league," said Kurtz, who is here as the coach of Oman.
The former German striker said Indian hockey`s decision to invest on youth paid rich dividends.
"In the last 3-4 years India has focussed on the youth and now this is getting them results. I always love to see India playing good hockey. Individually the Indian players are very good," said Kurtz, who was a member of Germany`s gold medal winning team in 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Kurtz, however, advised the administrators of the game back in India not to indulge in frequent change of plans.
"India is on a very good way to recovery. Indian hockey has improved by leaps and bounds, but it will take time, may be 2-3 years more.
"But India need to focus and trust in one plan. The problem arises when too many changes are made. If every time a new plan is introduced then the players get confused," Kurtz observed.
Kurtz had high regards about Indian hockey`s High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans` abilities.
"India has got the right man in Oltmans to guide them. He knows what he has to do. He is working very hard with this Indian team. He is not only helping the senior team but also developing the structure of hockey in India. I wish good luck to Roelant (Oltmans) and his team," he said.
A self-proclaimed lover of Asian style of hockey, Kurtz said the success of India and Pakistan are a must for the development of the game worldwide.
"World hockey needs India and Pakistan because of their typical, entertaining style of play," he believes.
"I like the Asian style of hockey. If you see the individual skills of players from Asian teams like India and Pakistan, they are just incomparable," Kurtz signed off.
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Mahendra Singh Dhoni