CHENNAI: Hockey India just cannot catch a break, can they? On a day when newly installed president Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad decided that High Performance Director ‘David John will not be part of the senior men selection committee’ for the upcoming World Cup, another controversy is simmering.
The chief coach of the men’s junior team — Jude Felix — has not been sent with the men’s 5’s team to the Youth Olympic Games beginning in Buenos Aires on October 6. He has, instead, been asked to take care of the junior Indian team that will play in the Sultan of Johor Cup (an annual invitational tournament in Malaysia) at Johor Bahru beginning at the same time.
Felix, who was with the squad when they won the Asian qualifiers (held in Bangkok in April) to qualify for the tournament, is completely baffled as to why he isn’t there ‘with my team’. “I heard about their decision the day the squad was announced (August 13). The team’s chief coach is not going.” He was almost like a guardian to them. “It’s all been me. I trained them for the last 15 months. I went with the team for the Asian qualifiers and we won gold there. Kariappa BJ also played a role but these are all my boys. Now, they are going to be coached by somebody who has never coached them.”
That somebody, according to the FIH website, is John but HI have since clarified. “He is only going to the tournament as manager for both teams,” a senior official told Express. “We had to mention his name as coach because of an FIH regulation but he is not the coach of the two sides.” While the men’s team will be coached by Kariappa (listed as ‘team manager’ by the FIH website), the women’s side will be coached by Baljeet Singh (again listed as ‘team manager’ by the website).
Back to Felix, the former India international, who sounded visibly upset about how the whole thing has played out. In fact, he even wrote to HI asking for some clarification on the matter but he is still waiting for a reply from CEO, Elena Norman. The HPD did reply but his response ‘shocked’ him. John got back to him saying he was being sent to the Sultan of Johor event as that was more important than the Youth Olympic Games.
Prez cracks whip on John
Meanwhile Ahmad, in a letter to Norman, informed her of the decision to keep John out of all ‘World Cup’ selection-related matters. “Observing the bias David John now has against few players of the Sr Men Hockey Team, I have decided that David John will not be part of the Sr Men selection committee for World Cup. This is to ensure fairness in selection without any prior bias against anyone in anyone’s mind,” he wrote in an email addressed to Norman.
The letter, a copy of which was accessed by this newspaper, also urges Norman to have a discussion with ‘HPD’. “David John was hired to do the following things besides his normal duties i.e development of grassroot level programme for hockey in India, identification of academies who will follow our program and to develop coaching programme for Indian-born coaches in India. Can you please advice after discussion with HPD as to what he has done on the above in the last two years in India?”
Ahmad took this action after John seemingly commented on the performances of individual players of the national team to the media — against HI’s policies and principles — on Monday.