Greek hockey banking on Indian experience

NEW DELHI (AP) – Greece is counting on some Indian expertise to ensure its field hockey team qualifies for next year’s Athens Olympics. Greece has been told by the International Hockey Federation that it will have to attain a minimum level before being granted a spot in Olympic Games competition, which had been an automatic berth for the host nation at past Olympics. The Athens-based Hellenic Hockey Federation has hired former Indian men’s coach Cedric D’Souza to train its team a year ahead of next year’s qualification matches to determine if Greece gets a spot in the Olympics. D’Souza is to take up the assignment on April 15, replacing Dutch coach Pancho Van Den Broek, who trained Greece’s men’s and women’s teams for a year. D’Souza’s tenure as the Indian coach ended dramatically last year when he was fired in the middle of the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Breaking the convention of granting a spot to the Olympic host, the International Hockey Federation’s president, Els van Breda Vriesman, said last year that «Greece will have to improve the standard before aspiring to play in the Olympic Games.» Greece will have to play a three-match series with the world’s 12th-ranked teams in men’s and women’s competitions next March. If Greece wins, it will secure a spot in the Olympics. D’Souza will be in charge of both the men’s and women’s squads. Field hockey is among the sporting disciplines that were virtually unknown in the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Officials have been trying to locate offshore players who have Greek ancestry, which remains the primary requirement to make the team. There are an estimated 7 million ethnic Greeks around the world, including about 2 million in North America and 600,000 in Australia.