Hockey World Cup: Unlike Europe, Asian teams build on individual play - Oltmans

It has been some journey for the respected Dutch coach. A five-year stint in India was followed by his taking charge of Pakistan in March before quitting to take over as Malaysia head coach in October.

other sports Updated: Nov 30, 2018 09:01 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Hockey World Cup,Hockey World Cup 2018,Roelant Oltmans
File image of former India hocket coach Roelant Oltmans.(Hindustan Times)

Roelant Oltmans raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun, looked around the Kalinga Stadium and smiled: “It’s always enjoyable to be back in India.”

It has been some journey for the respected Dutch coach. A five-year stint in India was followed by his taking charge of Pakistan in March before quitting to take over as Malaysia head coach in October.

Why such high demand for him in Asia? “You have to ask these countries!” says the 64-year-old.

“I always try to adapt to the culture and circumstances that I am going to work into, whether India, Pakistan or Malaysia. Also, the teams (I’ve coached) are getting better and that is the most important thing. In the end, you see improvement in the performance, which is recognised. Teams I coached started playing better hockey in that period. So, it’s a combination of why probably they are after me.”

So, what does Oltmans expect from Malaysia, who are in the toughest grouping – Pool D which also has Germany, Netherlands and Pakistan.

“It is not easy. I didn’t expect to coach Malaysia here. But I’m really very happy I got to coach during the World Cup. We don’t have high expectations … Our first aim is to survive the ‘pool of death’,” he said.

Oltmans had guided Netherlands to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1998 World Cup titles. He said the one similarity in Asian teams was that they build on individual play, unlike the top European teams that focus on team work.

“In Europe, the development is based more on team work so team understanding, positioning, technical awareness is better. At the same time, the Asian teams are eager to adapt and learn. They are getting better.”

Though initially reluctant to talk about the team he managed from January 2013 to September 2017, he relented to say India look good and can go far in the tournament “if they don’t have a bad day”.

“India are a good team and apart from (chief coach) Harendra Singh, they have a very experienced Australian assistant coach (Chris Ciriello). The combination looks very good, they played well in the last couple of tournaments.

“We have to see if they can continue without a bad day because that is what this is tournament is all about. They will for sure survive the pool phase and finish first or second in their group but that’s when the real tournament starts.”

Oltmans had shared a great working relationship with Sardar Singh. The retired former India skipper and pivot recently told this newspaper that watching India at the World Cup has left him wondering if he had made a hasty decision.

“I can understand his feelings. After such a long time, more or less being the face of Indian hockey, you’d like to finish with a World Cup in your own country. But he has retired and that’s what it is,” said Oltmans.

“I really enjoyed working with Sardar, he was a fantastic professional. But may be some youngsters were doing better than him according to the selectors.”

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 08:32 IST