Big challenge in Santiago for Indian hockey advisor Charlesworth


Santiago (Chile) : Richard Charlesworth, one of the most successful men in world hockey, embarks on one of his most difficult assignments in life – that of trying to ensure India’s place in world hockey’s elite.

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The 55-year-old Australian, who has always wanted to work with the Indian team, is travelling this week with the Indian side for the Olympic Hockey qualifiers. Only the winners in this six-team competition, which begins Saturday, will get Beijing Olympics ticket.

If India fails to win, it will not be making an appearance at the Olympic games for the first time since 1928. The stakes could not have been higher for India as the team reached the Chilean capital after a long and arduous journey lasting more than 24 hours in flight.

India has won seven gold and three silver medals in the period 1928 to 1980. But between 1928 and 1964, they had an amazing streak losing just one game – in the 1960 finals to Pakistan. But now the same team, which has not won a world competition since the 1975 World Cup faces the prospect of sitting out of the Olympics.

Last December, Charlesworth was appointed as the new technical advisor for both the men and women teams. While he will not be directly involved with the team and will assist and advise coach Joaquim Carvalho, only when and if asked, Charlesworth nevertheless is hoping to put in place a long-term plan for Indian hockey.

“It is the greatest challenge in the game and critical for the sport’s survival. Yes, we (India) can do it and I believe I can play a role as a catalyst…the players will be the ones who make it work,” Charlesworth said recently.

Chralesworth, who started his career as a cricketer for Western Australia, later turned to hockey. Apart from being a medical doctor, he coached the Australian women’s hockey team to four Olympics and led them to back-to-back gold medals at the World Cup and Olympic games. He was also an MP in Australia for 10 years.

Recently he said he had also spoken to former India cricket coaches, Greg Chappell and Kiwi John Wright, to understand the Indian sports scene.

Once in India, he saw the Premier Hockey League (PHL) and interacted with many local coaches, but at the same time met with a lot of opposition in Indian hockey, from people who want only an Indian coach. India’s current coach, Carvalho, too, is believed to be not-too-happy at his coming.

But Charlesworth is the kind of a man, not afraid to take on any challenge and this one of trying to get India to old glory could be his biggest task in his illustrious career.