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Former players were united in blaming selection controversies and poor attitude of the players for Indiaâ€™s worst-ever menâ€™s hockey performance at the Asian Games.The former champions did not qualify for the semi-finals in the Qatari capital on Sunday, the first time that they have failed to win a medal in Games history.
A shock 3-2 defeat to China last week meant they had to beat South Korea on Sunday to stay in contention, but a 1-1 draw left them competing for minor placings.
â€œItâ€™s very upsetting,â€ Olympian Mervyn Fernandis told Reuters on Monday.
â€œAfter the debacle at the World Cup (in September) I expected the team to at least come back hard at the Asian Games,â€ the forward added.
â€œWatching the matches, I felt the team lacked understanding, the attacks werenâ€™t cohesive and as a result we have let go of an opportunity to qualify directly for the next Olympics,â€ said Fernandis, who coaches premier domestic outfit Indian Airlines.
The top-two finishers in Doha gain a direct entry to the 2008 Beijing Games and the eight-time Olympic champions will now have to progress through qualifying tournaments.
Not a very comforting proposition though, considering that they finished 11th among 12 teams in the recent World Cup in Germany.
The teamâ€™s departure was mired in controversy when ace centre-half Viren Rasquinha was inexplicably dropped from the squad.
â€œI felt the composition of the team was not quite right,â€ Olympian Joaquim Carvalho told Reuters.
â€œMany of the selected players, in my opinion, were undeserving and that left the team imbalanced,â€ said Carvalho, who currently coaches Indian Oil Corporation.
Indian hockey has been on a steady decline since the 1970s and 80s.
Their last success globally came at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, where the U.S.-led boycott meant of the 11 teams that competed in Montreal in 1976 only India and Spain were present.
Indiaâ€™s last significant title was at the 1998 Asian Games.
â€œDribbacle in Doha,â€ lamented the lead headline in Mumbai broadsheet DNA, while national daily Hindustan Times blared: â€Another humiliating low.â€
â€œIt is sad to see India not among the top four on a stage they used to dominate,â€ Carvalho said.Â Â