Peter Cohen, Secretary-General, International Hockey Federation, looks back on the recent World Cup in New Delhi expressing his admiration for the stadium, appreciation of the large crowds and the positive side of HI elections. “The World Cup has created the momentum and it must not be lost. Quick action is the key,” says Peter Cohen in this interview. Excerpts:
What is your impression of the 2010 World Cup?
I was very happy. While there were some logistical problems, the tournament was an outstanding success and there were many positives from the FIH point of view. The stadium is world class, one of the best in the world. We are delighted with the partnership with our sponsors, particularly Hero Honda and SAIL. We are hoping to develop a long-term arrangement with both and others as well which should see regular top hockey being played in Delhi.
Were you impressed with India's performance?
While the team did not reach the semifinals there are clear indications that the basis is there and with hard work it can improve its rankings quickly. The key is a comprehensive national programme to identify talent and transparent selection process calculated to put the best players on the pitch.
Are you confident that Hockey India problems will be sorted out before the May 31 deadline?
I attended a number of very productive meetings with representatives of Hockey India during the World Cup. I am very optimistic that the elections will take place before May 31, 2010. The evening before I left Delhi, Leandro Negre, Tony von Ondarza and I attended a meeting with Kalmadi and Batra to review the progress and steps taken. It was a very positive and constructive meeting. We addressed the final steps. I look forward to positive developments in the next week or two.
What's your agenda for Hockey India?
The main focus is to create a sound administration to establish a comprehensive national plan for development. Part of this plan must be to deal with the development of the national teams, men and women, especially over the coming months leading up to the Commonwealth Games and the qualification of both teams for the 2012 Olympic Games. While it will be a longer process to establish both teams at the top of the world rankings, I believe it is a realistic target to qualify for the Olympic Games. The longer term requires a carefully developed and funded programme to identify talent and establish the infrastructure for the training. The focus is not just on the national teams but to set up a consistent programme of competition at all levels so there is consistency throughout the country.
What would you like to see in HI's functioning?
HI must establish a comprehensive and consistent programme, in close co-operation with all State units, to develop a national programme from the grassroots right up to the national team. One approach I would recommend is to set up a commission to study how the top nations do it. For example, Australia, Germany and Holland (to name but three — there are a number of others) have maintained themselves among the top hockey nations for many years. I believe that HI would profit from studying the methods by which they have been able to maintain such a high level of performance. Then it should set up its own model, based on the successful nations, but tailored to suit the specific conditions of Indian hockey. It is not rocket science and not difficult to do. All that is required is commitment.
What about the infrastructure to achieve all this?
One key is to establish the infrastructure and resources. I am confident resources can be found. I base this conclusion on the massive interest demonstrated at the World Cup. The TV ratings were fantastic and so was the sponsorship. The crowds were fantastic, especially for India matches. It proves that the sport is alive in India. The first step is to set up and fund a fully professional administration with a strong CEO. The administration must include a marketing manager whose responsibility is to raise sponsorships, publicity, particularly TV coverage.
Do you sincerely believe that Hockey India will be in place by May 31?
My focus is on the positive. Rather than asking what happens if the elections don't take place before May 31, I prefer to be positive and look to the methodology of accepting the challenge of setting in place the proper processes and infrastructure to ensure that Indian hockey, men and women, will in the foreseeable future be among the very best teams in the world. A good slogan might be — “Look out world, India is on the march”. I am absolutely confident that this can be achieved. The FIH is committed to bringing top hockey to India on a regular basis, to capitalise on the potential. The World Cup has created the momentum and it must not be lost. Quick action is the key.