Livid with the Indian men’s hockey team’s “unexpected” failure to defend the Asian Games title, Hockey India said the World cup will be the last chance for chief coach Harendra Singh and the support staff to retain their jobs.
Ranked fifth in the world, defending champions India were favourites to retain the Asian Games title and they looked on course after an unbeaten pool campaign during which they registered a record 76 goals.
“Our men players have become spoilt brats. They are always busy on social media and have no regard for discipline. They should learn from athletes, shooters and badminton players,” a Hockey India official told PTI.
But the Indians disappointed when it mattered, conceding a late goal in the semifinal to lose to world no.12 Malaysia 6-7 in the shoot-out after both the teams were locked 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
The loss also cost them a direct qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I have no words to say. It was an awful and unexpected performance from the team. It is not acceptable at all. They have wasted hard work of two years. After scoring 76 goals against weak opponents, overconfidence let the team down,” the official said.
“The players and the team management has let the entire nation down. With the World Cup round the corner we can’t make any changes now but performance in the World Cup would decide the future of the players and the team management,” the source added.
“The coaching staff can’t shy away from the blame. From top to bottom, the entire management has to take the blame. They just can’t sit and take away salaries. Against Malaysia, the Indian team lacked any plan.”
The HI official also took a dig at the players and said they should take a cue from athletes of other disciplines, while praising the women’s team who are in contention for a gold medal in the Asian Games after 36 years.
“Look at our women’s team. They have never deviated from their goal. They looked focussed and have improved by leaps and bounds,” he said.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) too is fuming with the men’s hockey team’s dismal show as it was expected to be a sure-shot gold.
“It was shocking to say the least. I have not seen such a bad performance in the last few years. You are ranked 5th in the world and against a side which is ranked 12th in the world, you looked clueless. This is not acceptable,” said IOA President Narinder Batra, who is former chief of Hockey India.
“The government has been very supportive of hockey and has provided all help but our men’s team has failed to deliver when it mattered. We will concentrate on sports like athletics, badminton, shooting and other sports which have performed beyond expectations,” he added.