Despite some fundamental differences between hockey and football, the two sports have shared ideas for decades. At the 2014 football World Cup, Holland coach Louis van Gaal had Hans Jorritsma as the strategic analyst. Jorritsma played for the Dutch national hockey team in the ‘70s, including the 1976 Olympics and the 1978 World Cup (silver medal). Later, he turned to hockey coaching. He was an important member of Pakistan hockey team’s coaching panel when the Green-shirts won the World Cup and the Champions Trophy in 1994.
Pakistan hockey team’s present head coach Roelant Oltmans, also a Dutch, is one of the most successful coaches in hockey’s history: he guided both Holland’s women and men’s teams to World Cup victories and the men’s side to Olympic gold as well. Oltmans also had a stint in soccer, serving as the technical director for Dutch professional club NAC. Oltmans saw NAC promoted to Eredivisie, the top tier of Dutch soccer.
In 2006, the German football federation appointed Bernhard Peters, a former national hockey coach, as a technical consultant to overhaul the country’s youth set-up. Last year, they snapped Marcus Weise, another former German hockey coach, as the head of the federation’s academy in Frankfurt.
In 2017, David Faulkner, a 1988 hockey Olympic gold medallist for Great Britain, who had worked as the Great Britain Hockey performance director for a long time, took up the role of the England Football Association’s head of women’s performance.
It is also the other way around. Famed Belgian hockey coach Jeroen Baart says, “I advise my players to observe footballers. The forwards in particular are told to learn movements from their football counterparts. How football players create space to receive the ball with their running techniques — forward or sideways.”
In the defensive strategies as well, hockey sometimes seek guidance from soccer. German hockey coach Valentin Altenburg says, “If you lose the ball, how can you quickly get it back? I learnt this from Barcelona and Bayern Munich. When they play long balls, they have very good structure behind it. So if the ball falls to an opponent’s feet, their players are already in position to get it back. The idea is not to give time to launch a counter-attack. We watch football to learn these tactics.”
India’s former captain Sardar Singh gets help from the videos of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona. “I have been watching their videos for a long time. I observe how they pass a ball, dodge players, and score. I have some of their videos on my iPad and often watch them before a match,” he says.
Currently, the whole world is in the grip of FIFA World Cup fever. In 1978, hockey and football World Cups were held in Argentina. The hockey event was held first. Throughout the Hockey World Cup, a wonderful Pakistan team managed by Abdul Waheed Khan displayed a breathtaking attacking game which captivated crowds and connoisseurs alike.
During their victorious campaign, the Green-shirts created many records. They became the first team to land the World Cup without losing (or even drawing) a single match. Pakistan’s goal difference of 31 goals (35 for and four against) is till date a World Cup record. Their total of 35 goals was the highest for a single edition of the World Cup (only to be bettered by Pakistan themselves in the next World Cup). Their style pulverised the defence of the opponents.
According to their manager Waheed Khan, Pakistan’s attacking strategy was based upon the concept of double attack, that is, if a move from right side failed then they made all the possible effort to immediately initiate a move from the left side on the assumption that most of the opponents’ defence had become concentrated on the right side, and vice versa.
Midway through the hockey World Cup, on a rest day, Waheed was informed that the head coach of Argentina football team, Cesar Menotti, had come on his personal plane to see him.
Menotti wanted to discuss in detail with Waheed the tactics to break packed defences. Waheed explained to Menotti his strategy of double attack as well as the use of wingers whenever it becomes difficult to override the opposition through the middle.
Menotti also watched a training session of Pakistan team. “I explained to Menotti practically. He noted a few points and then left the ground,” said Waheed.
Argentina went on to win the football World Cup for the first time. Menotti sent Waheed a telegram acknowledging that Pakistan hockey team’s ploys benefited him.