Jose Brasa goes into the home stretch of his two-year tenure as the chief coach of the national men's hockey team with mixed feelings.
If reaching the final of the Commonwealth Games last month was an unbelievable high for the Spaniard and his wards, then the 8-0 drubbing at the hands of World Champions Australia in the final, the World Cup debacle before that and his run-ins with officials were lows that he would not like to remember.
Brasa goes into his last assignment, the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, from November 12-27 aware that his contract may not be renewed, even though personally he would like to extend his association with Indian hockey.
HT caught up with him even though he was busy with the Asian Games camp in New Delhi. Excerpts:
How important is the Asian Games?
For me, it is nothing as my contract will end soon. But it is very important for the boys to win the Asian Games as it would ensure direct qualification to the 2012 Olympics in London. If they win gold, they will not have to go through the qualifying process.
But you have always maintained that the Asian Games would be the real test as you did not get sufficient time before the World Cup.
My job as coach was to help the team learn modern training techniques. I am happy that I have been able to achieve some success. I am not qualified to predict what will happen in the future. I am not worried about my future.
What are your plans for the short camp before the team leaves for China?
We will test the players' fitness in the first few days - see in what condition they report for the camp and then take things forward from there.
Have you received any offer or indication about renewal of your contract?
No, I haven't received any offer.
Would you like to continue...?
Of course I would like to. I see a lot of possibilities because the players are very talented. That's the only thing that makes me want to continue.
The system in India and Spain are as different as chalk and cheese. How much have things changed since you took over?
Just a few things have changed. I hope that things will change further and maybe a few years from now coaches will get more power and freedom to do their job. There is a big margin for improvement. The big difference is that in Australia and European countries the coaches have a lot more freedom and power to take decisions regarding the team. This is something that needs to be changed here.
How difficult was it for you to adapt to the Indian system?
Initially, it was very difficult to adapt and make people adapt to my ways. In Spain things are done very differently. But I think I am much more adapted to this philosophy. I am no longer bothered by the slow pace of change. I am more patient now.
Are you satisfied or you think the boys could have done much more?
Of course the team could have done much better. But as we are still working in the old system, I am satisfied with whatever they have achieved. I believe Indian players are very talented and with a better system hockey could be revived and reach the level that it had held once in the past.