New Delhi: “Inspiration comes from different places and different persons”, according to Indian women hockey’s chief coach Neil Hawgood who hoped that the junior eves’ historic feat in the World Cup will inspire the senior men’s team to win the Asia Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.
The Indian girls created history on Sunday by winning the country’s first-ever bronze medal in the Junior Women Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany after pipping England 3-2 on penalties in the third-fourth place play-off match. And the team’s coach said the junior eves’ success could not have come at a better time as it could inspire their senior male counterparts, who are busy preparing for the all-important Asia Cup scheduled to be held from August 24 to September 1.
“It (the junior team’s success) might inspire them (senior men’s team) but at the end of the day we did our job. Inspiration comes from different places and different people. If we can play a little part in inspiring them we will be more than happy,” the Australian told PTI in an exclusive interview.
After having failed to secure a direct berth in the FIH Men’s World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands from the FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam, India will now have to win the Asia Cup in Malaysia to qualify for next year’s mega-event.
But Hawgood sees no reason why the eight-time Olympic champions can’t win the upcoming eight-nation tournament. “But in the end they (men’s team) know what they have to do. They are good enough to play and win the Asia Cup,” Hawgood said.
The bronze-medal winning Indian junior eves returned home today amid fanfare and celebrations after scripting history at the seventh FIH Junior World Cup in Germany. But for Hawgood it is back to business as he had already set his eyes on his next target, the Asia Cup in Malaysia, which is also a qualifying tournament for the Women’s World Cup.
“The feeling has sunk in. It has sunk in over there. It is past now as we have to get on quickly in the next couple of days. You can’t linger on to it for too long because in four weeks time we have to play a senior World Cup qualifier, the Asia Cup in Malaysia,” the coach insisted.
“My next target is to try and make the senior team qualify for the World Cup,” he added. The eighth Women’s Asia Cup too will be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from September 21-29. Contrary to the final result in the World Cup, the Indian eves did not start their campaign on a perfect note as they were thrashed 1-6 by Australia, who eventually finished sixth, in their opening encounter.
But Hawgood said irrespective of the start, the girls were confident of a positive result from the marque event. “Everyone has written about the score and margin of defeat against Australia but we have our own ways of analysing whether we have played well or not,” he said.
“We went back and watched the game and we were quite happy with the way we played (against Australia). We created enough chances. It was actually a close game than what the scoreline suggest. From there on we were happy with the way we were played.”
The coach observed that Indian women’s team is at par with the rest of the world in the Under-21 level. “I believe our girls in 3-4 years time will start playing really well. We are actually quite level with the rest of the teams in the Under-21 category. I think the average age of players in the senior teams is about 24-25 and ours is 20-21 so there lies the big difference,” Hawgood said.
Reacting to criticism by some former players that India hockey doesn’t need foreign coaches, Hawgood said no coach is blessed with a magic wand to produce result in no time.
He insisted that patience is the need of the hour for Indian hockey. “We (foreign coaches) are not here to say we know everything. I may not be here when India is a successful team but I would be happy to contribute one per cent in helping Indian hockey. My job is to help India. It’s about value addition,” he said.
“The foreign coaches issue is blown out of water. Foreign coaches doesn’t have a magic wand to turn the fortunes of a team, no coach can claim that. Success can’t come immediately it will need 2-3 years. What we need to have is patience. We need to be patient and realistic about our expectations,” Hawgood concluded.