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Across language barrier

An India team in any sport is a milieu of culture, habits, dietary and otherwise, and languages. To get across his point of view can be quite a task for a coach, especially if his preferred language isn’t English. Ask Jose Brasa. B Shrikant reports.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2010 23:01 IST
B Shrikant

An India team in any sport is a milieu of culture, habits, dietary and otherwise, and languages. To get across his point of view can be quite a task for a coach, especially if his preferred language isn’t English. Ask Jose Brasa.

The Spaniard’s English is heavily accented and given that most players in the senior hockey squad aren’t comfortable with the language anyway, Brasa realised he had a situation soon after taking over last year. He learnt rudimentary Hindi to get around the problem.

Words like “chalo (move)”, “pakdo (catch)”, “bhago (run)”, “upar dekho (look up)”, “pass karo (pass the ball) “became part of his lexicon. That and some customised training drills helped transform a motley squad into a homogenous unit, one Brasa hopes will move and think as one for the next three weeks.

“It was maddening at first, picking their accent. Those from the north speak so differently from those in south India. Their food habits, work culture, attitudes are different and so, while getting them to understand my system of playing was extremely important, it was also a big problem,” Brasa told Hindustan Times during the recent camp in Pune.

The Spaniard devised special training drills and grouped players with similar temperament. “We tried and worked out alliances between players, if one was comfortable with another, we let them be together but also tried to see that they don’t form a group and pass only among themselves.

“For different drills we also mixed them to see how they worked with different players,” said Brasa.

While the players failed to get the point initially, by dividing them into groups of three-four and pitting them in small match situations against each other, Brasa gauzed their individual skills as well as compatibility.

At times, he also realigned groupings — getting them to attack with different partners and defend with different players — to see how they adapted.

Then, on the basis of skill and adaptability, the coach reworked the groups again.

Though Brasa’s insistence on drills to fine-tune basics and his forthright nature and approach did not go down well with the players initially — some senior players even spoke to the press against him — the squad did eventually get used to it.

“The drills were very good and we learned a lot from him,” said Tushar Khandekar.

“Brasa, while explaining each technique, also told us how it will help in match situations. We were told about the practical aspect of each drill,’ said skipper Rajpal Singh.

In the quest for the World Cup, “upar dekho, aage chalo” could have a different ring to it now. Both for Brasa and India.