There is “nothing left in hockey” for him, says former India men’s coach Harendra Singh, who is now planning to shift loyalties to football as he finds “The Beautiful Game” quite similar to his “first love”.
The seasoned coach was last month removed after India’s less than impressive performance in the World Cup. He was urged to take charge of the junior squad but Harendra refused to accept that position.
“Hockey will always remain my first love. Whatever I am today is because of hockey. But now I have nothing in hockey, so I decided to enhance my knowledge and what better than in my second love football,” Harendra said in an interview.
The 50-year-old said he is a big football fan and admires the ‘Tiki-Taka’ short passing style of Spanish football, which according to him is quite similar to the Indian hockey team’s tactics. The Spanish team won its maiden World Cup title back in 2010 relying heavily on the ‘Tiki Taka’ style of play.
“I am big soccer fan. I closely follow Arsenal and Manchester United (in the English Premier League). Spain is my favourite international team because their style of play with short passes is very close to Indian hockey,” he said.
The junior World-Cup winning coach has already approached Football Delhi President Shaji Prabhakaran to help him in his new pursuit.
“Hockey and football coaching are quite similar and I feel it is ideal for both hockey and football coaches to share their knowledge. I want this break to develop my coaching skills in football.
“I want to start from the scratch so I have decided to obtain the ‘D’ license of AIFF (All India Football Federation) and in this regard, I have sought help from Shaji Prabhakaran,” he added.
Harendra cited the examples of former hockey coach-turned football manager Bernhard Peters, the legendary Ric Charlesworth and Roelant Oltmans — all of whom tried their hands at more than one sport.
Peters had a successful career as a hockey coach in the German League and also went on to win the World Cup with Germany in 2002 and 2006 before switching to football where he was the Sporting Director of Bundesliga clubs like Hoffenheim and Hamburg.
At one point of in 2006, former Germany football coach Jurgen Klinsmann had publicly pitched for Peters for the newly-created position of Technical Director in the German Football Association (DFB).
Charlesworth was a former first-class Australian cricketer and High Performance Manager of New Zealand Cricket. He also had a glorious playing career with the men’s hockey team before coaching both the women’s and men’s teams. He guided both the teams to World Cup and Olympic medals.
In between Charlesworth plied his trade in Australian Football League as Performance Consultant with Freemantle Football Club, while until 2002 Oltmans was the Technical Director of Dutch football team NAC Breda.
“Who knows what happens in future? You might see me exploring options in football. In Europe, switching from hockey to football coaching and vice versa is quite common. You have Bernhard Peters, Charlesworth and Oltmans for example,” Harendra said.