Marijne: 'My focus is on job, can’t react to people’s criticism'

Marijne was associated with the women’s national team before being appointed as the chief coach of the men’s team.

India men’s team head coach Sjoerd Marijne interacts with players at the National camp at the Sports Authority of India in Bengaluru on Saturday.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Where his predecessor Roelant Oltmans often spoke of what were in his eyes realistic expectations, the new senior men’s hockey coach, Sjoerd Marijne, refuses to discuss any goals but the loftiest.

“Our dream goal is to win the Olympic Games 2020,” he said here on Saturday. “It doesn't matter if it’s realistic or not; it’s the aim. It’s our dream goal. And if it’s our dream we have to make sure it’s going to be realistic. If I'm already saying that it's not realistic, then I'm already setting a limit.”

It didn't matter where India stood in the world at the moment, Marijne felt. “You don't have to be No.1 to win tournaments. Argentina were not No.1 when they won the Olympic gold last year. Even if you're World No.6, you want to win every tournament you go to. You don't go to tournaments saying I want to be third. You want to win. And after that if you come third, you say it was a nice result.”

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Marijne was talking to reporters at the Sports Authority of India here, having taken charge of his first training session in his new role. The Dutchman, who was hitherto coaching the senior women's team, was named the men's coach earlier this month following the exit of compatriot Oltmans. The appointment invited criticism, not least because Marijne's record with the eves was far from spectacular, but the 43-year-old was unconcerned. “What other people say, I can't do anything about,” he said. “I've done a lot of work with men's teams in the past -- all club teams but international players. I was with the Spanish men till the 2008 Olympics with Maurits Hendricks. We won silver. In the last 17-18 years I've worked more with men than women. I had no hesitation in taking up this job.”

As he left, Oltmans had stated that he was always prepared to be sacked, given the high turnover of foreign hockey coaches in India. Marijne was asked for his opinion on the matter. “I heard that. But I'm not thinking about whether I'm getting sacked; because if I am, then I'm getting distracted from my job. That's not why they hired me,” he said.

Marijne's immediate task is to prepare the team for the Asia Cup, which begins in Dhaka on October 11. “Time is short, so we do what we can,” he said. “The first challenge is to get to know the players. Of course I know the names but I don't know how they are, how they react under pressure, what is their behaviour, how are they in tournaments.”

How, though, did the women's team feel about Marijne's exit? “It was not easy because if you're there for six months, you build good relationships,” he said. “They were disappointed. But I'm happy that they were disappointed because if they were not then it means I didn't do my job well.”