Australian Michael Nobbs’ firm belief in Indian style attacking hockey for the national men’s squad has struck a chord in Zafar Iqbal, former national coach and captain at 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. “Nobbs is the right person I would say (to coach Team India) but he should have the right talent also. Players like Sardara Singh or Sandeep Singh. The coach should have about 10-12 of that quality before we think of doing well at the Olympic Games,” said Zafar, answering a question whether it is logical to expect India’s form in the Qualifiers to be replicated at London 2012.
Nobbs is the first Australian to be designated chief coach of national men’s hockey. Zafar played down expectations of a men’s hockey medal by India at 2012 London Olympics. “You cannot jump from a low ranking to medals straightaway. India can try to improve our ranking to number five or six. If India can qualify for the semi-final, it will be a big achievement.” Former Olympic champion India did not make the grade at 2008 Beijing Olympics and needed to win a qualifying event for a berth four years later at London 2012. India is placed at 10th in FIH men’s rankings.
Air India General Manager (Civil) and Padmashri awardee, Zafar spoke on the sidelines of the Public Sector All-India Cricket Tournament at MIG Club, Bandra on Thursday night. The former India left-winger was positive about the benefits of World Series Hockey. “It is a booster to Indian hockey, no doubt about that. WSH is helping players get some money out of 30-35 days they play, a few lakhs I think, so the tournament is a great booster to them too. We had Premier Hockey League earlier but was discontinued after the Indian Hockey Federation was disaffliliated.”
He added: “WSH is a good beginning, I don’t know about the future due to the fighting between two federations (IHF and Hockey India). The situation is like a cancer in the body and has to be removed at any cost. Otherwise whatever medicine administered is not going to help. The government is trying very hard to bring about a solution. Both bodies are saying we are the legal body, it is not fair on the public.” HI objection players’ participation on the grounds that FIH had not sanctioned it resulted in India players, including Sardara and Sandeep, keeping away from WSH. The inaugural event is being played across eight cities, attracting players’ from Pakistan, Spain, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia apart from Indian Olympians.