Dutch hockey legend Floris Jan Bovelander comments on Harendra Singh’s sacking

Dutch legend Floris Jan Bovelander says instead of firing coaches frequently, Indian hockey system must ensure consistent structure for youth to excel

Dutch hockey legend Floris Jan Bovelander comments on Harendra Singh's sacking

Coach Harendra Singh with members of the Indian hockey team during last year’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Dutch hockey legend Floris Jan Bovelander’s comments are as sharp as his lethal drag flicks back in the 1990s that helped the Netherlands win gold at the 1990 World Cup in Pakistan and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In the city as a panelist for the India Netherlands Business Association-organised ‘Value of Sports in Work, Life and Business’ discussion at the Otters Club in Bandra recently, he spoke to mid-day at length about last year’s World Cup in Odisha, Indian hockey and the changing order of world hockey, among other topics.
Excerpts from an interview

On India’s World Cup performance last year:
The Holland v India quarter-final was one of the best matches of the World Cup. It was a good level of play and India were unfortunate to lose 1-2. Holland is the better team and the Indian team was just not at a level to beat them. Losing in the quarters is not a bad result. The top six is very close and India belongs there.

Floris Jan Bovelander at Otters Club in Bandra on Thursday
Floris Jan Bovelander at Otters Club in Bandra on Thursday

On India coach Harendra Singh’s sacking:
My main area of focus, and that’s what we discussed at this session today, is India’s hockey structure. Changing a coach every now and then is not done. They should maintain the same structure for at least a couple of years and then see the positive outcome. It’s not coach Harendra’s fault. He was in charge of the senior team for only six months, so you cannot blame him. Probably, this is the best the team could do. In six months, you cannot do better than this.

On falling penalty corner conversion rates:
Penalty corner defences have certainly improved. The rushers, particularly the ‘suicide runner’, who runs in the direction of the drag flicker, makes it very difficult. At the World Cup, the PC conversion rates got better later, when variations and rebounds were used more but scoring off the drag flick is difficult now. In my days, there may have been better drag flickers [laughs].

On Hockey India League becoming five-a-side
Any promotion of hockey – beach hockey or the five-a-side version – is good but official tournaments should always be 11-a-side. So, I don’t think the HIL should become five-a-side. I’m associated with One Million Hockey Legs, a project to unearth hockey talent across rural and urban regions in India, and in parts of Jharkhand and Odisha, we have put up smaller turfs, on which a total of 5000 kids practice. A decade ago, I helped introduce beach hockey in Holland, where a bigger ball was used and there was no goalkeeper. Even those who had never played hockey before could play beach hockey. So at the grassroots level or to introduce the game to people, five-a-side hockey is fine but professionally, hockey has to be played 11-a-side.

On the changing order of world hockey
During the 1990s, Germany and Australia were on top. We [The Netherlands] also won the World Cup and the Olympics but they were the better teams because they won many titles consistently. But now there is no one team that’s ruling the hockey world. Belgium won the World Cup because they’ve had a great youth structure back home for the last 15 years, where a lot of money has been invested in coaching and infrastructure, and of course they have some gifted players. India also has some fine talent but the smaller, regional training centres are lacking in development.


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