NEW DELHI: India’s gold medal in the just-concluded Asian Games after a 16-year hiatus has proved that hockey is “still alive and kicking” in the country which has a rich history in the sport, feels High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans.
A spirited India outclassed arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 in a nerve-wrecking shoot-out to regain the Asian Games men’s hockey gold medal after a gap of 16 years and also sealed a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Before embarking for the Asian Games, there was immense pressure on highly-paid Oltmans and chief coach Terry Walsh to deliver results, but the legendary Dutchman said the performance in Incheon will definitely silence the critics of hockey.
“I never feel pressure. The word pressure in not in my dictionary. I know my job. I know what I am doing and the same way Terry knows what he is doing. It is important that people have faith in us and let us do our work,” Oltmans said.
“I hope the gold will silence the critics for quite some time now. This gold proves that hockey is still alive and kicking in this country,” he said.
Oltmans, who is in charge of the overall development of Indian hockey, is satisfied with the performance of both the men’s and women’s team, which clinched a bronze in the Asian Games but said there is still lots to improve upon.
“Of course I’m satisfied with the performances. It is close to maximum. We had a chance to win silver in the women’s competition. Both the women’s and men’s teams created a lot of goal scoring chances which tells that we are going in the right direction. But there are plenty of areas to improve,” he said.
The Dutchman, however, warned Indian hockey fans not to get carried away with the gold in the Asian Games as he feels the eight-time Olympic champions have a long way to go to match the likes to Australia, Netherlands and Germany.
“We all have to realise that this was a championship in Asia. In the World Cup we saw how the Asian teams fared. We need to understand that Holland, Germany and Australia are the top three teams in the world and just below them are teams like Argentina, New Zealand, England and we are now a part of the second group.
“The level of Asian hockey now is not upto that mark. The reality is our level right now is not good enough to match the top three teams of the world. What we are looking for is consistency and improvement in the level of our performance and we need to work on these areas so that we are in a position to play and win against the top three teams in the next two years time,” Oltmans said.
India’s defence has been its perennial problem in international tournaments but Oltmans feels the backline fared impressively in the Asian Games.
“There is never a perfect game in hockey. I never found it, we came as close as possible. But in the Asian Games, India proved that it can defend,” he said.
“On the attacking front we could have scored more goals. But overall the structure has improved.”
Oltmans said the 1-2 loss against Pakistan in the pool stage came as a blessing in disguise for India as it motivated the team to go for the kill in the summit clash.
“Immediately after the loss against Pakistan in the pool match, I sat down with the players and analysed the game. I asked them to forget what has happened as in the end, it is the tournament that counts and not one loss,” he said.
The Indian’s men’s hockey team, which returned to the country in the wee hours today, will have a 10-day break before re-assembling for the national camp ahead of its upcoming international assignments, which includes the FIH Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar in December.