New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) India chief coach Paul van Ass on Monday claimed that he has been sacked by Hockey India (HI), but its president Narinder Batra maintained there has been no termination of the Dutchman’s contract and a decision in the matter will be taken this weekend.
The development comes in after the two had an altercation during the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final after India’s quarterfinal win over Malaysia in Antwerp on July 1.
“I have been fired by HI. I have not received any official confirmation from the federation but HI officials have told me that this is happening. I have known this since Friday which is why I am not surprised,” van Ass told IANS over telephone from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
In response, Batra told IANS: “There has been no termination. HI has been in touch with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the same. A special HI committee will meet on Friday after which their decision will be made public on Saturday. The committee will evaluate the performance of not just the men’s but the women’s team too.”
HI on Sunday had set up a special committee to evaluate the performance of the national teams in the HWL Semi-Finals. While the men’s team reached the semis and finished fourth, the women’s outfit was ousted from the quarterfinals and managed to end fifth.
The committee, comprising former eminent players and Olympians is chaired by Harbinder Singh. Other members include B.P. Govinda, V. Baskaran, A.B. Subbaiah, Thoiba Singh, R.P. Singh, Asunta Lakra and Jasjeet Kaur. They will meet on Friday to review reports and relevant data and provide feedback on Saturday.
Van Ass, who was appointed on January 30, was supposed to join the Indian team which is undergoing a fitness camp at SAI centre in Shilaroo, Himachal Pradesh. But the Dutchman did not return to take charge of the camp, saying HI had not sent him the air ticket.
“Obviously, if HI does not send me tickets to return to India, how will I come? There are stories spreading that I did not return but how can I return if you do not send me tickets,” wondered the 54-year-old, who went back home from Belgium following the conclusion of the HWL Semi-Final event on July 5.
“I have been constantly in touch with HI director high performance Roelant Oltmans. Last week, I got to know that I have been sacked, that Dr. Batra does not want me as chief coach.”
Responding to van Ass’s claims, Batra said the Dutch tactician was lying and travel tickets had been sent to him.
“He was supposed to evaluate the team’s performance and send us a report on July 15. He was then supposed to send his report on July 17. He was supposed to come back. He did not do any of them and is spreading the news that he has not been sent tickets. He is lying. We did send him the tickets,” Batra said lashing out at the Dutch tactician.
A point of contention is that van Ass, being an SAI employee, cannot be sacked by HI. But the Dutch, who led the Netherlands to silver medal-wins at the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup, said HI and SAI have reached an understanding.
“They are one, they are one,” shouted van Ass over the phone. “I have come to know that a mail was sent by HI to SAI. I assume that they have been in touch with each other regarding me.”
Asked about the contentious altercation in Belgium, van Ass said: “This was during the quarterfinals of the HWL Semi-Final on July 1 against Malaysia. After the match, Dr. Batra came on to the field of play to talk to the players. I told him that this is not the appropriate time or place to talk to them.
“He did not take it that well and got angry with me. He did not say much but was just angry with me for asking him to leave. I am angry because a difference of opinion has led to this. This will make the team suffer,” van Ass said.
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)