Indian hockey’s foreign coach, Jose Brasa, had been maintaining a stoic silence ever since the sport touched a new low during the recent captaincy row. The coach and the federation were at loggerheads over who should be captain. Brasa reportedly wanted Prabhjot Singh while Hockey India opted for Rajpal Singh.
Shunning the media under ‘gag orders’ from the authorities, the Spaniard finally broke his silence at his first press conference here on Friday, saying, “My permission to talk to the media is yet to arrive but I am here to answer your queries.”
“Past is past. The team has forgotten all those controversies and everyone is concentrating on the World Cup,” said Brasa. On India’s chances in the mega event, the coach, who was blamed for the captaincy row, said, “It’s difficult to predict the future; so I can’t say where we will be placed. But we are in a tough pool and it would be a difficult task to make it to the semifinals…I want my boys to fight and give their best.”
Commenting on the team’s two practice matches, he said, “There is some improvement from the way they played in Salta. The players are fitter. We plan to go all out using the wide gaps on the pitch,” added Brasa.
On the opening match against Pakistan, he said, “Though the match is crucial for both teams, there is no pressure on us. We are taking it as any other match.”
Replying to a question, whether his job would be on the line if India did not do well in the showpiece event, the coach joked that he has been living in hotels since arriving in India and there is not a lot to pack.
Though Brasa was realistic about India’s chances, skipper Rajpal Singh sounded confident of reaching semis. “After the practice matches, the team is highly motivated and we will surely make it to the semis. Once there, we are capable of springing a surprise,” said the skipper.
Traditional rivals Pakistan too are confident of a semifinal spot. “Our team has performed really well of late and we will capitalise on that,” said skipper Zeeshan Ashraf. On the opening match, Zeeshan said, “People in our country don’t like losing to India. So, for both countries, it will be a crucial tie.”
Setback for England
England suffered a major setback when forward Simon Mantell suffered a foot injury and withdrew. Mantell got injured in Thursday’s practice match against New Zealand.
Ministry shoots down logo plans
The Sports Ministry has scuttled plans of international hockey federation (FIH) and World Cup title sponsors Hero Honda having a logo on the field, like at cricket matches.
Hero Honda had sought such branding and FIH approved it as a first such attempt in hockey to enhance commercial and brand value for sponsors. They also promised to hand over the ground in good condition, without any damage to the turf. The FIH chief met sports minister MS Gill over this but the ministry would have nothing of it.
This is another setback for the sponsors who have been worried about their investment because of the spate of controversies and negative publicity.