The confrontation between Paul van Ass, who is still officially chief coach of the men’s hockey team, and Hockey India (HI) president Narinder Batra has deepened, and chances of reconciliation look remote.
The two had an argument during the recent Hockey World League Semifinals in Antwerp, and the episode was the catalyst in the Dutchman’s services being terminated.
On Monday, Van Ass said he was waiting for an official confirmation. “I am not associated with the Indian national side as I was told to leave by the HI president,” he told HT over the phone from Rotterdam.
Appointed coach in January till 2018, Van Ass said, “A week after the international event in Belgium, I was sacked by the federation. Since I don’t have any business in India, I am not coming back.”
He alleged that his training methods were not appreciated by Batra. “I understand emotions run high during matches in India, but I was trying different things to bind the players in Antwerp and to prepare the team for Rio (Olympics),” he said.
While Van Ass maintained he had been fired by the federation, Batra refuted the allegations saying HI hadn’t sent him any communication in this regard.
According to him, he had a healthy discussion with the players after the match with Malaysia in Antwerp. “I told the players they should give better results and not struggle against teams like Pakistan and Malaysia. This wasn’t liked by Van Ass,” he said.
Batra expressed surprise at Van Ass not sending the report of the event to the federation. “After the event, he didn’t bother to communicate with us,” he said. The coach claimed since he wasn’t issued an air ticket, it indicated it was over for him.
Speculation over Van Ass quitting the national team had been doing the rounds for the past few days, but the Sports Authority of India (SAI) distanced itself from the controversy.
An official with the Teams division, the department responsible for conducting national camps and coaching, was clueless. “I don’t know whether the hockey coach is coming back or not,” he said.
HI recently constituted a committee to evaluate the performance of the men’s and women’s teams in Antwerp, and the panel is expected to meet on Friday and announce Van Ass’ fate as well.