The much-decorated Floris Jan Bovelander, who has won the Olympic gold and the World Cup with Holland, is a partner in a Jharkhand initiative that teaches hockey to children in a village almost 50km from Ranchi. Bovelander, 51, spoke to the media on Skype in Khunti, Jharkhand.
Q: What are your thoughts on the academy in Jamshedpur?
A: This initiative teaches a lot of life skills through hockey but in the end, for talented players there should be a place where they are able to get the most out of themselves. The academy will give players that opportunity.
Q: When will the girls join?
A: It also very important to improve the girls, who I have seen do not enjoy the same facilities like the boys. I would like to include them in the academy in two years.
Q: As the wait for an Olympic medal gets longer, what are your thoughts on hockey in India?
A: I think there were hardly four or five countries which had both the men’s and women’s teams in the Olympics so it was a good development for India. The Hockey India League is one of the best hockey tournaments in the world, which gives enough inspiration to players here to grow in the sport.
The area where India needs to work on is the grassroots. Also, in India you learn to play on artificial turf when you are 16 or 18 years old by which time you have already developed a style not suitable for the surface… But in the last few years, Hockey India though has done a good job by getting good foreign coaches to develop the western style of play. I hope this will popularise the sport again as communities start adopting hockey in a bigger way.
Q: Which is the world’s best men’s hockey team now?
A: I find things very close from the quarter-final stage onwards in big tournaments. Argentina becoming the Olympic champion is big news but I do not think they can be called the best. I think there are eight very good teams and India belongs to that group.
Q: As a penalty-corner specialist, what do you think about the two-goal rule for the field goals?
A: A penalty-corner conversion will always be appreciated as a great goal in hockey. Some goals should come from penalty-corners. It is easy to watch and understand for the spectators. Putting two points to a field goal has not changed hockey much and it won’t help if teams become too defensive. I think it is getting more and more difficult to score from a direct flick.