LUCKNOW: Whenever one talks about the genuine heavyweights of hockey, Spain are always on the periphery. Their record in the last 20 years is superior to many traditional superpowers but not many put them in the same bracket as Germany or Australia.
The Iberians are one of the few to have medalled in all major competitions (Olympics, World Cup, Champions Trophy) this century and that is a big achievement. Interestingly, coach of the junior team, Roger Pallarols, spoke about why there has been a period of decline for the side.
“We don’t really have many players as compared to some of the other countries,” he says. “Our financial condition is not good enough to make a plan and play more games.” Throw in the fact that the country has a ridiculously high unemployment rate, you can see why fewer and fewer potential players have been coming through to the turnstiles. But Pallarols remains optimistic. “It’s not very popular but we are fighting at every stage. Tactically and technically we are pretty good.”
When the juniors face India for a place in the semifinals on Thursday, it could almost be a match between the haves and the have-nots. The Spanish senior team could not take part in a Champions Trophy because they had no funds. India hosted one in 2014. It’s difficult to woo the next generation of kids into the sport given the predicament but Pallarols has a simple rule. “What you are saying about the economic conditions are true but we are a team and we are not thinking about money. We play for pride and victory. We are not complaining about things we don’t have.”
The coach’s philosophy won’t change if they lose to India, he will just double up on his efforts to identify the next batch of players to try and keep a proud country going forward.