The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saini may quit after Athens

Calcutta: The city’s only representative in the international hockey circuit, Baljit Singh Saini is likely to call it quits after the Athens Olympics in 2004.

“An Olympic medal is the last driving force of my nine-year long international career,” Saini said after his return to the city on Sunday for a ten-day break.

“I want to give more time to my family. Also, there’s not much more to achieve after the Olympics,” Saini told The Telegraph.

He has even started chalking out his programmes after retirement. “My primary aim is to set up a hockey academy in the city. I have talked with my employers Punjab and Sind Bank. I’ll also discuss it with the BHA authorities,” Saini added.

But for a proper academy, the city desperately needs an astro-turf. “The BHA authorities are doing their best. I will also interact with the authorities concerned to have the astro-turf set up as soon as possible.”

But, right now it’s Mission Olympics for the Bhowanipore boy. And Saini feels the decision to rest the seven seniors (which includes himself and Dhanraj Pillay) for the Afro-Asian Games is part of the contingency plan for the Olympics. “It’s time we’ve have a quality reserve bench ready,” the 28-year old reasoned.

Saini, however, is confident he will be back in the team for the series against The Netherlands. “Coach Rajinder Singh assured me personally that I’ll be back for the series,” Saini added.

He also had a word of praise for Rajinder and felt there is no need for a foreign coach. “European coaches will never understand the Asian style properly. It’s always good to have home-bred coaches,” he observed.

However, Saini feels the Asia Cup triumph was a real morale booster. “We overcame the Champions Trophy disappointment quite brilliantly. It’s extra-special because we haven’t won this tournament before.”

He, meanwhile, described the tiff between Rajinder and Pillay following the team’s return from Kuala Lumpur as “a minor misunderstanding”.

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