‘Have faith in us’

Joaquim Carvalho’s accent is on youth. "There has to be young blood in the team when we talk of the future," he says.-K. MURALI KUMAR

The Santiago debacle is history. Joaquim Carvalho and his boys are now looking ahead with hope. The coach, however, cautions against expecting success overnight. “We need a lot of patience; we have to wait for the results,” he says in a chat with Kalyan Ashok.

Joaquim Carvalho is back in office. The outspoken National hockey coach seems to have put the setback suffered at the Olympic qualifiers in Santiago behind him and looks ahead with hope as the Indian team begins its long climb to the top.

Carvalho, who played for India at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, knows that his task isn’t easy, but the tireless former Indian midfielder has tremendous self-belief which seems to have rubbed off on his players.

During the training camp for the Indian probables at SAI (South) Centre, Carvalho took some time off to chat with Sportstar.

Excerpts from the interview: The training camp at SAI (South) Centre:

It was a tough camp as we had come back from Chile demoralised, having failed to win a berth for the 2008 Olympics. But we were able to put that behind us and work on the task at hand (the Indian team is in Australia for a four-nation tournament. Later in May, it is scheduled to play in the Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia). We had a list of 41 players to begin with, which was pruned to 28. From this we selected the final team for the tour of Australia. But this 28 will serve as a core group for India’s future assignments. The accent is on youth.

On the role of the younger players:

There has to be young blood in the team when we talk of the future. I am looking at players who are under-20 and under-18 years or even younger like Lalit Upadhya who have the skill, speed and potential. Right now they might lack maturity but over a period of time they will gain that.

On putting a time frame for success:

The problem with our national psyche is that we seek instant gratification. You can’t expect success overnight. We need lot of patience; we have to wait for the results. This young team is gelling, and gelling fast. It is capable of ensuring a podium finish sooner than later. But let us wait for it. When I took over the team, it was down in the dumps. We were out of the World Cup, beaten in the Asian Games, but we made steady progress, won bronze medals in Belgium and the Azlan Shah tournament and then won the Asia Cup at home till the roadblock came in Chile. The team will surely turn to winning ways again.

On why India was defeated in Chile:

There were several reasons. The scheduling of matches had to be one. Packing eight matches in one week, it was hard to maintain consistency day in and out. Till that bad start against Great Britain, it was all fine. Another reason could be that we did not play at our pace, but chose to match the pace of Britain. Yes, we could keep finding reasons, but it would not serve any purpose now. What needs to be done is to look forward and try to get better.

On reactions to the defeat:

It hurt us, we did not go there to play and lose. We tried our best, but still we lost when it mattered.

On the umpiring in Santiago:

My observations seemed to have raised dust, but I maintain that some of the decisions did go against us in some of the matches. Is there any harm in saying it?

On his resignation:

I quit because at the outset I had said that if I was not able to perform I would step down. I took the moral responsibility for the defeat and tendered my resignation in spite of the fact that I had done whatever I could in a short span of time for the team and the defeat was not due to poor coaching. I am grateful that the IHF and Mr. K. P. S. Gill stood by me and refused to accept my resignation. So did the players who had openly expressed their faith in me. So I am staying on and I am committed to what I have set out to do — to put Indian hockey back on top. Just give us time and have faith in us.