End of an era as Harendra Singh bids farewell to Indian hockey but wishes it well
In an apparent snub to Hockey India, Harendra Singh has decided to call it a day and not take up the position of coach of the Indian men's junior team which was assigned to him by the review committee on Wednesday.
In an emotional message, the former defender, who took up coaching almost fifteen years back, thanked the players of the Indian men's and women's teams and said he had no regrets, but wanted to move on - a decision which is certain to send shockwaves through the Indian hockey fraternity.
"My last chapter is closed now. No regrets whatsoever, the responsibility I was assigned I performed as per my best capacity."
"I would like to thank all my players in the women's team and men's team. Without their support and love, I don’t think I would have reached anywhere."
"Time to say goodbye to Indian hockey. God bless Indian hockey."
Harendra Singh began his international coaching career as an assistant to V Bhaskaran during the Sydney Olympic Games of 2000 and has been active as a coach ever since.
The veteran experienced several ups and downs throughout the course of his career but persisted with single-minded determination towards his goal of improving the standards of Indian hockey.
Harendra guided the Indian junior boys to a historic World Cup gold medal in 2016 and did a commendable job with the senior women's team as well.
The Golden Girls beat Olympic champions England in the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, last year, and went down fighting to Australia in the semifinal.
Following the campaign at Gold Coast, Harendra was appointed as coach of the Indian senior men's team and began in style as the Indians, ranked sixth, managed to enter the final of the Champions Trophy ahead of higher-ranked sides like Argentina, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
At Breda, the Indians lost to Australia in the shootout although several experts have been unanimous in their assessment that the kookaburras were indeed lucky to have come away with a win in the last-ever historic final of the Champions Trophy.
India's shocking loss to Malaysia in the semifinal of the Asian Games halted the juggernaut of a team which looked to be on the path to ascendancy and had risen to be the fifth-best side in the world.
The sudden retirement of Sardar Singh along with an injury to veteran striker SV Sunil meant that the Indians were forced to field a relatively young and inexperienced team for the World Cup.
Ramandeep Singh, who was injured during the opener of the Champions Trophy, also failed to recover in time for the World Cup, limiting the choices for the selectors, and India's eventual loss to the Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinals was attributed in part to the inexperience of the boys.
Hockey India's review committee decided to relieve Harendra of his duties and assign him the role of mentoring the Indian juniors which many experts felt was equivalent to an unceremonious demotion.
It is the end of an era for Indian hockey as every player of the national team, over the past decade or so, has been associated with Harendra Singh at some point or the other.
In an earlier interview with Sportskeeda, Harendra had revealed that India's ignominious loss to Pakistan by a 1-7 margin in the final of the Delhi Asiad of 1982 had inspired him to take up hockey and that he was greatly influenced by Mohammed Shahid and Zafar Iqbal.
Several Olympians, ex-players, and coaches were of the opinion that Harendra Singh should have been retained but the members of Hockey India's review committee evidently thought otherwise, which prompted the Dronacharya awardee - and one of Indian hockey's most eminent personalities - to bid farewell to the game he so fervently loved.