NEW DELHI: India’s preparations for next year’s Olympic field hockey were thrown into turmoil on Monday after chief coach Paul van Ass said he had been sacked just five months after taking charge.
Speculation over the Dutchman’s future arose when he failed to report for an ongoing national training camp.
He also did not submit his report on the team’s performance in the recent World Hockey League in Antwerp, Belgium, where India finished fourth.
Van Ass told the Press Trust of India he had been fired a week after the league ended and the team’s high performance director Roelant Oltmans had been asked to take over.
“Don’t ask me anything, ask Hockey India,” van Ass told the news agency from the Netherlands. “I did not step aside. I was asked to go.
“I had been told that (Hockey India boss) Dr Narinder Batra does not want me to be the coach any more. Roelant called me and informed me about this.
“I am yet to get an official confirmation, but I expect to get it by the end of this week. That is precisely the reason why I did not turn up for the camp.”
Batra declined to say if van Ass had been sacked, insisting he was unaware of the coach’s plans.
“He was supposed to join the team on July 17, but he is not back yet,” said Batra.
“We have no idea where he is.”
A high-powered committee of Hockey India is due to meet on July 24 to decide the future course of action.
Batra has denied media reports that he had a heated argument with van Ass in Antwerp over team tactics.
The Dutchman was appointed Indian coach in February, the sixth foreigner to hold the post over the last decade.
Van Ass, who coached the Netherlands to a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, replaced Australian Terry Walsh who resigned over a pay dispute in October last year.
Walsh left three weeks after guiding the men’s team to the Asian Games title that earned India a direct entry to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The foreign coaches who have served the Indian team over the last 10 years are Spaniard Jose Brasa, Australians Ric Charlesworth, Michael Nobbs and Walsh, Germany’s Gerhard Rach and van Ass.
PTI quoted an unnamed senior player as saying the uncertainty over the coach was hitting preparations for the Olympics.
“It definitely affects us,” the player said. “It affects our training, our performance and our preparation.
“It takes time for players to build a rapport with the coach. So if the chief coach is changed every other day it is bound to affect our performance.
“If van Ass is not coming, we are back to square one.”
India won the last of their eight Olympic men’s field hockey gold medals at the Western-boycotted Moscow Games in 1980.
They have not won a major world title since then.