There was a time when the very idea of facing Floris Jan Bovelander during penalty corners would send shivers down the spine of defenders and goalkeepers. With shoulders built like rocks, the Dutchman hardly missed a drag-flick. The ball just flew like missiles once it left his stick.
Nicknamed Boem Boem Bovelander, the 51-year-old pumped in 216 goals in 241 internationals with the 1990 Lahore World Cup triumph and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold medal crowning a stellar career. Now busy with his One Million Hockey Legs programme to promote the game, Bovelander was in the city to engage with underprivileged kids at the Jude Felix Academy as part of Holland Meets Bangalore initiative. The legend took time off to chat about India hockey and the shift in power in world hockey. Excerpts.
Your thoughts on India’s obsession with foreign coaches?
I think it’s good to have international coaches because I think India needed some different style in play. I think Hockey India did a good job. They had some influence from Australia and Holland, setting up the HIL was very good and I’m very sad it’s gone down, hopefully for just one or two years, because it’s good for the promotion and for the young kids who get to see top stars. The influence of international coaches is okay but I also think they need to develop Indian coaches as well. Hockey India is doing that as well. Maybe in 10-15 years, Indian coaches will come to Europe and coach.
India also has an affinity for Dutch coaches. Roelant Oltmans, Paul van Ass and now Sjoerd Marijne. Your thoughts…
It’s not really Dutch but more the western style of play. I think what Oltmans did well and Marijne will do now as well, they mix the cultures. They play more solid and structured in defence but they still have that, what I call a chaotic style of play. It’s unpredictable. It’s a good mix. I saw the junior World Cup in Lucknow and they were fabulous and that’s how you should play. It’s skilful and a lot of tempo but with structure. Hopefully, that will be the new way of hockey. It’s more solid and better structure.
How much does the constant chopping and changing impact the team?
Too many changes will only diminish the level. Sometimes it’s better to have a coach, maybe not the best, but stay for a while. Every change means you have to adapt again. Too many changes are normally not right. But we’ve had many changes in Holland as well. I played in a period where there were many coach changes which were not the most successful part of my career. You get to the top of your game and when there is change, you have to drop a bit. So hopefully for India, the men’s and women’s team, there will be some structured coaching.
Argentina won the Olympic gold medal, Belgium is on the rise while Australians have hit a roadblock. Your thoughts on the shift in power in world hockey…
We needed it. For a long time Australia, the Netherlands and Germany dominated. They would occupy the podium spots in most events. That’s not good. Argentina are the Olympic champions which is a big surprise. Belgium is coming up and they’ve been having a very good programme for 10 years now. They are solid and strong and belong to the elite. We need more teams at the top level and that’s good for hockey.