When Hockey India sacked Roelant Oltmans as the coach of senior Indian team, it was a surprise move. The men’s team tasted moderate success under Oltmans, who had been associated with Indian hockey for five years.
But that was not all. The fans were in for more surprises when Hockey India appointed Sjoerd Marijne, coach of the women’s team at that time, as the new coach. Harendra Singh, primed to get the job, was given the command of the women’s team.
A few months later, HI swapped coaches and on Wednesday, it sacked Harendra from the position continuing the game of musical chairs which began more than a decade ago.
Michael Nobbs (2011-13): Before the London Olympics, Hockey India roped in the Australian to continue India’s recovery in modern hockey. But India finished last at the 2012 Olympics and after a term of two years and one week, Nobbs was sacked unceremoniously for non-performance.
Offered a contract for five years, Nobbs was the fourth foreign coach to be sacked before completing the term. The final nail in the coffin was India not securing a direct ticket for the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, finishing sixth out of eight teams in FIH World League semifinal at Rotterdam.
Terry Walsh (2013-15): Another Australian joined the Indian team as head coach and was fairly successful. He led India to a historic gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games which also meant that India directly qualified for the Rio Olympics 2016.
But before 2016 arrived, Walsh joined the list. He complained of “too much interference” from Hockey India and was sacked in January 2015.
Paul van Ass (January 2015 to June 2015): The shortest stay among all foreigners. Van Ass had a bizarre experience of handling issues, majorly off the field, related to Indian hockey. He was miffed about HI president Narinder Batra’s involvement in running the team’s affairs, in particular his attempt to take over a team meeting during the Hockey World League semi-finals in Belgium.
Van Ass, as he puts it, was asked to go.
Roelant Oltmans (2015-2017): He had been associated with Indian hockey as high performance director for two years before he was appointed the head coach. In his reign for two years, Oltmans coached India at the Olympics and had a fair amount of success. But even that did not mean he got a long term.
Sjoerd Marijne (2017-2018): He had never coached a men’s team before and was coach of the women’s team when out of nowhere Hockey India appointed him as the coach in 2017. He had success with the men’s team with an undefeated campaign at the Asia Cup, a good run at the HWL Final in Bhubaneshwar, and a successful test series against New Zealand.
But then came the disappointments. An experimental Indian squad had a bad Sultan Azlan Shah tournament and later failed to medal at the Commonwealth Games. It meant only one thing – Marijne was asked to leave.
Harendra Singh (May 2018-January 2019): The latest to join the list is Harendra. He had coached the Indian men’s team in 2009 to 2011 and was back at the position in May last year. With Olympic qualification on line at Asian Games, the Indian team was expected to win a gold in Indonesia. But after the bronze-medal finish, the sword was hanging perilously on Harendra.
With India hosting the World Cup in December, it was unofficially the final chance for Harendra to save his job. But India crashed out of the tournament after a 1-2 loss to the Netherlands in the quarter-final.
Now a month later, he is out of job. He has been offered the job to coach the junior team by HI (Harendra won the junior world cup in 2016 as coach), but there has been no reaction from Harendra yet.