Marijne: ‘In future, I hope women’s team gets the same support and status’

Sjoerd Marijne, who ended his journey as Indian women’s team hockey coach after helping the side finish fourth at the Tokyo Olympics, hopes they build on the momentum and do well in future.

Sjoerd Marijne, who has stepped down as the coach Indian women's team, hoped the women would get opportunities to play more tournaments in their country just like their male counterparts.   -  FIH

Sjoerd Marijne is delighted to have been a part of the hockey campaign that won the hearts of the Indian people. Rani Rampal and her team came close to winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The medal remained elusive but as the Dutch coach said at the end of the campaign, they had won the “hearts” of the people if not the “medal.” As Marijne emphasised, “That is what India saw. What they achieved as a team.”

The preparations for Tokyo were intense. Marijne was confident. “You never know the course before. In the Olympics, or any tournament, you have to wait and see if the things are going well or not. One of the most important things for me was the belief the girls had in themselves. They really believed we can achieve something. Everything starts with that. If you don’t believe you can’t go to these kind of tournaments. You can’t just look at participating and that is what I told them: ‘You are going there to achieve something. Don’t think it is just nice to be at the Olympics and gloat over what happened at the previous Olympics. We have to go for the gold’.”

READ: Marijne: This was my last match with Indian women's hockey team

The indications of a hockey revival had come in 2018 at the FIH Women’s World Cup in London. “The turning point was at the World Cup when we made the quarterfinals (for the first time). That is when they started believing that they could do this. That made the big change. There were also times when we did not do well. When we failed to reach our expectations. The Netherlands tour (before the Olympics) was good. We did well. The girls started believing from there,” Marijne said.

Marijne always loved the style of Indian hockey. “I like the Indian culture: dodging the opponent, light on feet. We have players who can win the battle one on one and when you have such players things become fluent and easy. You don’t have many such players in women’s hockey. You can create two against one. If we create opportunities ,it is the way forward. Also, we need a good player for penalty corners and one good goalkeeper. And we have both.”

With India finishing fourth at the Tokyo Olympics, Marijne was convinced Indian hockey can look forward to some exciting times. “There is enough proof now that there is place for women’s hockey. And I hope in the future women will get the same support and status. You have to realise we didn’t follow the same path as the men. Look at the men, they have Pro League, Premier League, they have tournaments in their own country. We didn’t have them at all. These girls must get all these things.”

READ: Odisha felicitates India's hockey stars after historic success at Tokyo Olympics

In Marijne’s opinion, Indian women have made the biggest progress in the field of fitness, both physical and mental, and technical awareness. “We have improved a lot.”

Making the quarterfinals was true to form. “The tournament is then open after that. They did really good. It was not easy to be there. We had not played matches for long and even before that we always played under pressure. They did what they could do. The matches we lost were lost closely. The girls showed their fighting spirit. Most important is you now know the value of these players and how far they can go.”

The coach praised the team for putting up a great resistance against established opponents. “We have done it. We played eight matches of high quality with dignity and distinction. That’s not easy. The girls had never played eight matches because they would be out of the tournament early. They matched all teams in physical fitness.”

 

On his decision to leave the team, Marijne said, “They are aware of why I am leaving. These things happen. When you experience these kind of things together it is always difficult to say goodbye to each other but I know the next coach will do very well. Janneke Schopman (analytical coach) is very good with the girls. These are moments they have to cherish and they also have to go on. That’s what I told them: Make this the basics for your next step. Don’t just sit back and be happy with what was achieved at Tokyo. Or else you would never grow.”

Personally, his moment from the Tokyo Olympics was the victory against Australia in the quarterfinals. “That was an emotional moment for all of us. You could see the happiness on the faces of the girls and the Indian people. It was something I had never experience earlier. I must say it was amazing and the reactions have been overwhelming. I am very happy for the girls.”

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