India Men’s Hockey Team Coach Craig Fulton

Barely two weeks into his new role as head coach of Indian men’s hockey team, South African Craig Fulton is pretty clear about his goals — to make the side number one in Asia and qualify for next year’s Olympics in Paris.

Fulton, who witnessed the rise of Belgium hockey since 2018, wants India to first dominate Asian hockey and then gradually translating it into the world stage.

“What I have in my head is to be the no.1 team in Asia. Definitely, it is one of the goals which we want to achieve and be there consistently and then push because if we are sitting on world ranking 4 and 5, you need to consistently try to reach the podium,” Fulton said in his first media interaction, held virtually.

“When you have built enough experience and have a game plan which suits all the individuals then you can definitely push on to get into the finals and win them.

“The priority is to qualify for Paris Olympics through the Asian Games. This is our no.1 priority. By using the FIH Pro League, the four-nation in Spain and then the Asian Champions Trophy we want to really set us up to be strong and be in a position to qualify straightway,” he added.

Fulton has achieved exemplary success in his previous stints as coach. His rise to fame began with a stint as Irish men’s team head coach between 2014 to 2018 when the team qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

That was the Irish team’s first Olympic qualification in 100 years. The historic feat also won him the FIH Coach of the Year award in 2015.

Fulton also worked as assistant coach with the reigning Olympic champions Belgium en route to the gold medal in Tokyo. He was also part of the Belgian coaching staff during their 2018 World Cup win in Bhubaneswar.

The South African was candid about his assessment of the current Indian team, saying there is a gap between it and the top two or three teams in the world.

“We are not the best team but we are a good team. We have some work to do but at the same time we are very difficult opponent to play, not many teams like playing us,” Fulton said.

“But realistically the place we are right now, there is a gap between us and world no.1 and 2 teams and we need to work (to bridge the gap).”

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