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'If the same conditions persist, I'll quit'

Last updated on: September 27, 2010 10:54 IST

Like most coaches concerned with Indian hockey before him, Jose Brasa's tenure has been more about controversies than results.

Jose BrasaIn the hockey World Cup in New Delhi in March, Brasa's first major tournament since taking over as coach in May 2009, India finished a lowly eighth (among 12 teams).  

To be fair to the Spaniard, though, he had been realistic about the team's chances taking into account the controversies that preceded the sport's flagship event.

Not much has changed since. The controversies have mounted, with Brasa accusing the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Hockey India (HI) officials of ill-treating him.

Hockey India, in turn, accused the Spaniard of trying to portray himself as a "martyr" after failing to deliver in his job.

There are even reports of Brasa not keen on renewing his contract.

And amidst the controversies come the challenge of ensuring India a medal -- the hosts are yet to win any -- at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi

Talking exclusively to Senior Associate Editor Bikash Mohapatra, Brasa reveals the improvement in the team, its chances in the Commonwealth Games and his future as India's coach. Excerpts:

To begin with, is the Indian hockey team ready for the Commonwealth Games?

The preparation is going well. The players are putting in a lot of effort. We are hoping for the best.

Hockey made its debut at Commonwealth Games in 1998 but our men are yet to win a medal. What according to you is the reason?

Why India hasn't won a medal so far is tough to say.

But it may be because the competition level in the Commonwealth Games is very high. Teams like Australia, England and New Zealand are higher than India in the world rankings.

Among the top teams, only Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are missing from the field. All the other top teams figure in the Games.

Can you promise a medal on this occasion?

That's impossible to know in sports. Any match can be won or lost. All the teams are on an equal footing.

I haven't been part of a Commonwealth Games before.

But I can assure that we are definitely going to try our best to win a medal.

The run-up to the Games has been mired with so many controversies. Your views?

I think we have to concentrate on the Games. In any case, everything in the run-up to the Games has been very strange. We can talk about things like these after the Games are over.

During our last interview, you said the Asian Games (in Guangzhou) is your priority. Is it the case now as well?

Yes, very much. Because if we win gold at the Asian Games, we are guaranteed a berth in the London Olympics (2012). 

As regards the Asian Games, we are very much on track. In any case, the Asiad will be less difficult than the CWG in terms of opponents.

Teams like Australia and England won't be there. So India has to just contend with Pakistan and South Korea.

Jose BrasaYou had also said Indian hockey is more about the individual than the team. Is it still the case?

We are trying hard to play as a team and put the individual aside.

We also have a psychologist who is helping the players improve as regards the mental aspects of the game. So that answers your question.

Despite having a solid start in the World Cup -- having thrashed Pakistan 4-0 in its opening match -- India faltered badly and finished eighth, just as you had predicted. What do you think went wrong?

In the World Cup, because of the pressure of being the host nation, we couldn't perform as well as expected.

Also an injury to our first choice goalkeeper after the second match affected our chances considerably. After that we had only one back-up goalkeeper and that meant a lot of pressure on him, which he couldn't cope with.

However, we do hope to improve on our World Cup showing at the CWG.

What have been the major changes in the team post the World Cup debacle?

There are many positive changes that have happened in the team in the last few months.

We have only one goalkeeper these days, which is different. We are training Vikram Pillay to double up as a goalkeeper if the need arises. We have also chosen Bharat Chetri as our first-choice keeper as he is strong and athletic.

We also have new players coming in. I am happy with the players we have. We think our team will play better hockey and won't commit the same mistakes it did in the World Cup.

What according to you are the areas where the team needs to improve?

We have to improve on the goal-scoring front. Also we need to address our finishing in tight situations.

We also have to avoid conceding stupid (and sometimes silly) goals.

In the Champions Challenge we had a high percentage of goals scored, I think. We need to take inspiration from that.

Which team would you bet on to win the gold medal?

Australia is the best side in the world at the moment. They won the World Cup in New Delhi and followed it up by winning the Champions Trophy at Moenchengladbach (Germany). They are they best team among all the participating nations and will be the favourites to win the gold.

Your tenure as the coach of this Indian team has had it share of controversies …. (Interrupts)

Let's wait till the Games are over. And then we will talk about these things.

There were reports that you will quit as coach once your present contract gets over after the Asian Games. Will you continue?

In the same conditions, no!

Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra