Stephane Cottalorda had big plans when he arrived in India last month. As the first foreign coach of the country's women's boxing team, Cottalorda - who had previously trained the French junior and youth teams - was optimistic about his prospects. "There is a lot of potential here. My vision as a coach was not just to prepare teams for the Commonwealth and Asian Games but for the World Championships. I expected to qualify women for the Olympics. I was very confident it could be done. My dream as an individual was to come to a different country and for my family to learn about a new culture," the 41-year-old told ESPN on Thursday evening.
Even as he spoke, it was clear those dreams had already soured. Barely a month after he arrived, Cottalorda announced his resignation. In an email to the Sports Authority of India and the Boxing Federation of India on Wednesday, Cottalorda cited the delay of salary payments, withholding of funds for his expenses and a lack of professionalism as reasons for his decision.
"Despite my emails and requests, I note that I still have not received my salary for the month of August. I do not have accommodation nor any guarantee of it. I do not have any official documents concerning my social security coverage in the event of an accident. Despite sending the proofs, I still have not been reimbursed the various expenses I had to do to join India," Cottalorda wrote.
Cottalorda says these expenses - a work and travel visa, train travel and vaccinations -- amount to over three thousand euros. He says the BFI only paid him some seventy percent of his salary once he returned to Paris. The BFI says it cannot pay the remainder until Cottalorda procures a PAN card.
During his time in Delhi, Cottalorda was put up at a hotel in RK Puram instead of a house which he was promised. As such he says he could not bring his family over to India as he had originally planned. He returned to France at the end of an exposure tour to Ireland in the first week of September. "I think I have been patient enough. It's been a week since I returned to France and you know my plan to return to France since September 4th. None of you would take the risk of crossing the earth with his family by not having any guarantee of his future. None of you would agree to work without wage guarantee and/or delays," Cottalorda wrote.
Cottalorda added in his mail that he wasn't resigning for 'just material aspects.' "India wants a program for the team but they don't want to give me information. They want a calendar but they change it every time. I am not sure they are very happy to have a foreign coach," he says. The Indian women's team's failure to be able to participate in the Women's Boxing Championships in Poland this week -- after the BFI failed to get a visa for the team -- particularly ticked Cottalorda off. The Indian team's practice camp in Ireland had been arranged on short notice by the Frenchman himself and the failure to participate in Poland was apparently the final straw for it was the last chance for the team to compete ahead of the Asian Championships.
The BFI, in its reply to Cottalorda's criticism, stated that they had too little time between when the women's team was announced (5th August) to get the visas in time for the September 6th tournament in Poland.
While the BFI has found itself spurred into action by Cottalorda's resignation, boxers too have raised concerns. Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom said she was 'shocked' by the decision. "It is very disappointing and I am quite shocked. Speaking as an athlete, I can only say that he had been an excellent addition to the camp. It was our responsibility to take care of his requirements," said Kom, who also serves as a government observer for the sport.
The BFI says it will try to convince Cottalorda to rethink his decision. As it stands the Frenchman is adamant. "Each time they tell me to be confident. But I don't want to return. I have no confidence," he told from his home in Nice. Cottalorda says for now his priority is to find schools for his children after he had withdrawn them in the expectation that he would be working in India for the next three years. He is already expecting to take a financial blow because of his decision. An employee of the French Ministry of Sport, he had taken unpaid leave in order to take up his assignment in India. "They don't understand that I have a life in France and I can't wait. The Indian system is not professional. I know it is a different culture but there are too many people who want to decide but nobody actually wants to change anything," he says.