Players take pride in playing for the country. Coaches, too, need to feel the same at all times even if they do not belong to the native country (a foreigner coaching a national team).
Indian women’s hockey team’s Australian coach Neil Hawgood raised quite a few eyebrows when he was flashing a broad smile at the Indian bench after the national team was handed a 1-7 pasting by 5th ranked Germany in their last league game of the Hockey World League in Rotterdam.
One is not sure what prompted Hawgood to break into a smile – even some of the team’s support staff were seen grinning – ok, if they were cracking some jokes then it was definitely not the right time for it as his team had cut a sorry figure on the pitch against the rampaging Germans.
Mind you, Hawgood is no ordinary hockey coach or even an average hockey player in his heydays by any stretch of imagination.
The tall Australian was part of the Kookaburras, which finished fourth at the 1988 Seoul Olympics – in fact, Hawgood scored five goals in seven matches in that mega event and also served coaching stints in England and Scotland.
He served as assistant coach of the Australian women’s team at the 2006 and 2010 World Cup and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was also assistant coach with the men’s team from 2001 to 2004.
So for someone who has played and coached hockey at the highest level with distinction, it is hard to read Hawgood’s unbecoming behavior. It is also hard to fathom why some of the support staff were seen giggling towards the end of the play.
One has to thank the Ten Sports cameraman for showing the Indian coach smiling even as the national side was subjected to humiliation by Germany. The incident puts into focus the ‘accountability’ aspect of Hawgood as national coach. Had it not for the Ten Sports cameraman, his unbecoming behaviour would have go unnoticed.
Hockey India appointed him in the middle of last year and to be fair to Hawgood, he hasn’t done anything of note with the girls.
The Australian’s first assignment was the Champions Challenge Cup held in Ireland in September 2012. The Indian eves finished a poor seventh among eight teams.
There was no improvement in the national team’s performance when it embarked on a tour of New Zealand for a six Test series. Indian eves lost the series 0-5, failing to win even one game and even suffered a 2-7 shellacking in the first Test.
The Hockey World League Round 2 event in New Delhi was the only event that the team fared well. Without taking anything away from the girls, the national team was hardly tested as Japan was the only team who looked competitive.
India’s Hockey World League campaign in the semifinal round in Rotterdam only underpins Hawgood’s inability to lift the team’s fortunes. 0-7 and 2-7 heavy defeats at the hands of New Zealand and Germany as well as a forgettable 1-1 draw with lower ranked Belgium spells out the state of Indian hockey.
Hawgood’s credentials as a coach has definitely taken a beating after his stint with the Indian women’s hockey team.
His ‘smiling ways’ after the defeat against Germany only throw uncomfortable questions about his coaching job.
Even if you take out his performance parameter, one wants to know if he really has pride and passion to lift Indian women’s hockey or he just wants to enjoy his salary and leave the sport in doldrums.