Twist in Indian hockey coach sacking : Paul van Ass willing to return on conditions

Paul van Ass
Paul van Ass

A major twist has emerged in the Indian hockey coach issue. According to media reports the India’s hockey chief coach Paul van Ass, who claimed he has been fired from the job following an altercation with federation president Narinder Batra, has  said he is willing to resume his duties provided there is no “interefernce” in his work.

van Ass, who took charge of the team only five months back, had alleged  that he had been “fired” by Hockey India following the spat with Batra after the quarter-final match against Malaysia in the World League Semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium earlier this month.

After the episode, a fuming Batra constituted a special committee under Olympian Harbinder Singh a take a call on the coach’s future, on July 24. Asked if he is ready to rejoin the Indian team if asked to do so, van Ass told PTI from Rotterdam: “It’s too early to jump the gun. Let’s wait and see. The fact is I am not welcome any more. For sure I have been sacked just a week after the tournament (in Antwerp). I am just waiting for the official word. But whatever happens I am OK. I have never quit the job. I have never said I have quit. What can you do if you are fired?

“But if am asked to return I am fine. But before that we will have lots of discussion. I am just very straight.
My position is simple ‘don’t interfere in my primary process’,” Van Ass added.

A day after Van Ass claimed that he was sacked by HI, federation chief Batra hit back at him, saying that “Van Ass is not a good coach” and was “rude”.

Reacting to Batra’s remarks, the outspoken Dutchman said: “He cannot judge what he doesn’t know. It’s useless. Such remarks prove that he doesn’t know the game but I am least interested in all these. “I am not bothered about his opinion. It is not serious. What was serious was that all the blame was being put on my head by saying that I haven’t reported for the camp. But the fact is I was never supposed to join the camp as I had already been sacked,” he said.

Van Ass took over the coaching job of the Indian team just five months ago. If van Ass is indeed relived of his duty, he would 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.
The Dutchman, however, made it clear that he was not in India in lure of money but to create a “magic” in next year’s Rio Olympics. “I was not in India for money. By God’s grace I have earned enough in my lifetime to lead a healthy and good life,” Van Ass said.

“What excited me about the India job was Olympics. But as a coach I was not just interested in going to the Olympics. I wanted to create a magic and the boys were pretty fired up for the job. That’s the ultimate fun,” he said.
“It was possible to get a medal (in Olympics) and it could have been done.”

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.

Asked about his time with the team, van Ass said: “I had spent some wonderful time with the boys. They are naturally gifted as all Indian hockey players. We also had decent results in the tournaments I was in charge.”


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