Hockey India ‘fires’ Chief Coach van Ass for on-field altercation

India chief coach Paul van Ass on Monday claimed that he has been sacked by Hockey India (HI) following an on-field altercation with its president Narinder Batra during the Hockey World League (HWL) semi-final earlier this month in Antwerp.

“I have been fired by HI. I have not received any official confirmation from the federation but HI officials have told me that this is happening. I have known this since Friday which is why I am not surprised. I am waiting for the official confirmation,” van Ass told IANS over telephone from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The Dutchman, who was appointed on January 30, was supposed to join the Indian team which is undergoing a fitness camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Shilaroo, Himachal Pradesh. There was speculation after van Ass did not return to India to take charge of the camp but he said it was HI which did not send him the air ticket.

“Obviously, if HI does not send me tickets to return to India, how will I come? There are stories spreading that I did not return but how can I return if you do not send me tickets,” wondered the 54-year-old who went back home following the conclusion of the HWL semi-final event on July 5.

“I have been constantly in touch with HI director high performance Roelant Oltmans. Last week I got to know that I have been sacked, that Dr. Batra does not want me as chief coach.”

A point of contention is that van Ass being a SAI employee cannot be sacked by HI. But the tactician, who led the Netherlands to silver medal-wins at the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup, said HI and SAI have reached an understanding.

“They are one, they are one,” shouted van Ass over the phone. “I have come to know that a mail was sent by HI to SAI. I assume that they have been in touch with each other regarding me.”

Asked to explain the details of the altercation in Belgium, van Ass said: “This was during the quarterfinals of the HWL semi-final on July 1 against Malaysia. After the match, Dr. Batra came on to the field of play to talk to the players. I told him that this is not the appropriate time or place to talk to them.

“He did not take it that well and got angry with me. He did not say much but was just angry with me for asking him to leave. I am angry because a difference of opinion has led to this. This will make the team suffer,” concluded van Ass, whose first assignment as India chief coach was the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in April in which India clinched the third spot.

In the HWL semi-final event, India eventually beat Malaysia to reach the semis where they lost to Great Britain to finish fourth in the 10-nation tournament.

This comes in after van Ass’s predecessor Terry Walsh was also asked to leave after various differences arose between HI and the Australian towards the end of 2014. Walsh had led the Indian team to its first Asian Games gold in 2014 after 16 years. (IANS)

Hockey IndiaHockey World LeagueIndia Chief CoachNarinder BatraPaul van AssPresident