van Ass sacking saga: The blame game continues

The special committee of Hockey India, constituted to decide on the issue, has indicated that the Paul van Ass is unlikely to resume his services.  

Paul van Ass would not be returning to take charge of the Indian men’s hockey team but the last word has not been heard on the week-long saga with both parties continuing the blame game on Friday. And the key figure in the entire drama remains High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, who has maintained a studied silence.

The special committee of Hockey India, constituted to decide on the issue, expectedly, indicated that the Dutchman was unlikely to resume his services.

Bilkul nahi ayega wapas, respond hi nahi kar raha (Absolutely won’t return, he is not responding at all). When we talk of discipline for the boys, it has to be there for the staff also,” committee chairman Harbinder Singh said.

“The coach was very much discussed in the meeting. van Ass did not send his report or make any submission to us. He is not willing to talk or respond to the federation so there is no point in our trying to talk to him. We have given our recommendations to Hockey India on the issue and it is up to them to take a call,” he added.

Series of mails

However, hours later the Dutchman released a series of mails, in possession of The Hindu, exchanged with Oltmans and SAI, during July 13-22 to prove that he never quit but was sacked by the federation.

“On Friday July 10th Roelant Oltmans had a meeting with Dr. Batra from Hockey India where he was told to tell me that I was not welcome anymore,” van Ass’s mail on July 21 to SAI ED (TEAMS) Sudhir Setia read.

“On Tuesday July 14 Roelant Oltmans had a meeting with Elena Norman, CEO of Hockey India, where they discussed my dismissal. The mail from Oltmans to me says that if I come to India, I have to sit at SAI office for a month... to fulfil my month notice.

“It was clear that I was not supposed to be the trainer of the camp in Shilaroo... Roelant also mentioned that contact has been made between Hockey India and SAI, and that a formal letter of resignation will be sent to me in the coming days,” the mail said.

“I have many more mails concerning the matter that Oltmans had to let me officially know by Mr. Batra, that I was fired! He certainly would not do that on his own,” van Ass wrote in his reminder to Setia on July 22.

Interestingly, the very first mail from van Ass to Oltmans, dated July 13, only mentions a telephonic communication about his dismissal but no details. The mails also indicate that Oltmans was his only contact in HI and van Ass had assumed all communiqué from his compatriot was official HI information.

Hockey India president Narinder Batra had earlier admitted that Oltmans had told him the 54-year old van Ass did not appear too keen on continuing with the team but insisted that he wanted the coach to return to India before taking a final decision. The fact that Van Ass had been sent his travel tickets, something initially denied by the Dutchman before accepting, adds another dimension to the entire drama.

Friday’s committee meeting, meanwhile, discussed the team’s performance at the Hockey World League semifinals in Antwerp — where the entire HI-van Ass face-off began — and Harbinder said the recommendations would be passed on to the federation to decide the future course of action.

Asked if Oltmans was questioned about the mails sent by him on the issue, Harbinder said it was outside the committee’s agenda. Batra is expected to meet SAI officials on Saturday accompanied by Oltmans to further discuss the entire issue.

Jude Felix, part of the coaching staff, has also put in his papers. “I have my 86-year-old mother that I need to take care of. I always felt guilty leaving her alone. Also, my hockey academy for underprivileged children is very short-staffed and they need me,” Jude told The Hindu. Sources also said Jude was fed up of the ongoing tussle in the federation and wanted to get away from it all.

Disciplinary action

Senior midfielder Gurbaj Singh would not be picked for the team’s upcoming tour of Spain and France as a penalty for indiscipline. One of the members of the committee said that the team manager and other coaches’ reports mention his misbehaviour with the staff and attempts to create rift within the team at Antwerp.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 8:37:55 PM |

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