As Abhinav Bindra cut a cake in Beijing to celebrate his Olympic gold, a song played in the background: Chak De India.
Days later, the man whose work was the inspiration for Chak De…, MK Kaushik, coach of the Indian women’s hockey team, sat watching the hockey final in Beijing. Over the past week, he has been recording games on his video camera for future strategy sessions.
While the Netherlands defeated China 2-0 in the final on Saturday, Kaushik’s team is hundreds of miles away in Bangalore. It did not make it to Beijing. Amrit Bose, Secretary of the Indian Women’s Hockey Federation, blames the team for its swift fall from grace — gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, the 2004 Asia Cup and a bronze at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
“The girls didn’t play well. I have nothing more to say,” she told HT.
The qualifier tournament was held in Kazan, Russia, where the girls faced icy temperatures.
During the qualifiers, the girls changed holding up blankets in Delhi to provide cover to teammates. After the media exposed their state, they were shifted to a dharamshala.
Five coaches have been changed in the year leading up to the training camp . Getting a washing machine for the players —who have to wash their own clothes —took six months, according to an official with access to inventory records. Standard requests for good hockey kits, cameras, laptops, video analysers and physiotherapy equipment were stonewalled. Sponsors were ready to help. Curiously, that money was reportedly used.