By: Shubham Ghosh
India on Friday (3) named South Africa’s Craig Fulton as the new chief coach of the men’s national hockey team that finished a disappointing ninth in the World Cup in January.
Fulton, who has nearly 25 years of coaching experience, replaces Australian Graham Reid, who quit after India’s dismal show in the marquee tournament. Besides him, the team’s analytical coach Greg Clark and scientific advisor Mitchell Pemberton had also stepped down.
Reid, though, had guided the Indian team to a historic bronze medal-winning show at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Fulton said he would strive to take Indian hockey to the next level.
“It is an honour to be appointed in the role of chief coach for the Indian men’s hockey team. India has a deep history and legacy of the sport and I look forward to taking this forward with the current team which has some very promising talent,” Fulton said in a press release.
the 48-year-old Fulton, who is a former South Africa hockey player, has shown exemplary results in his previous stints as coach. His rise to fame started with a stint with the Ireland men’s team as its head coach between 2014 to 2018 when the team qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
That was the Irish team’s first Olympic qualification in a century.
The historic feat also won him the FIH Coach of the Year 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, India.
Fulton was named Belgium Coach of the Year this year.
In his illustrious career as a hockey player with the South African squad, Fulton played 195 international matches over a span of 10 years. He was part of the South Africa team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics. He has also played at the World Cup and Commonwealth Games.
Speaking on Fulton’s appointment, Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey said, “I am very pleased to state that Hockey India has finalised Craig Fulton for the chief coach’s role with the Indian men’s hockey team. I have had the honour of playing against him and now I look forward to closely working with him in this new phase for the men’s hockey team.
“He comes with tremendous experience in coaching and his work ethics induces confidence of raising the team’s performance in world hockey.”
Fulton is expected to join in the middle of the upcoming FIH Pro League matches against Australia and Germany in Rourkela in the eastern state of Odisha next month. India will take on Germany in the first match on March 10 followed by return leg on March 13.
India will also play Australia, the reigning Commonwealth Games champions, on March 12 and 15.
In the Pro League matches, Australian David John and BJ Kariappa were named as interim coaches, along with Shivendra Singh. John and Kariappa have been working with the Odisha Hockey Federation.