Sjoerd Marijne’s appointment defies logic, say hockey stalwarts

Dutch Marijne, who has no experience of coaching a senior men’s team, was given charge of the team six days after the ouster of compatriot Roelant Oltmans.

Sjoerd Marijne was the head coach of the Indian women’s team before the reschuffle.   -  AFP

Former India players have expressed surprise over the appointment of Sjoerd Marijne as the head coach of the men’s national team. They believe the abrupt move “defies logic.”

Dutch Marijne, who has no experience of coaching a senior men’s team, was given charge of the team six days after the ouster of compatriot Roelant Oltmans. Junior World Cup-winning coach Harendra Singh will replace Marijne as the head coach of the women’s team.

For India’s only World Cup-winning captain Ajit Pal Singh, Marijne’s elevation was a senseless decision. “In my opinion, the appointment defies logic. This man (Marijne) has never coached a senior men’s team. He hardly knows the players,” Ajit Pal told PTI. “Harendra has been given the women’s team charge but he, too, has never been involved with the women’s team. The Olympic cycle has already started and they will now take time to settle down,” he said.

'Ill-timed'

Ajit Pal feels Oltmans sacking was “ill-timed.”

“Oltmans’ removal was ill-timed and not graceful. He has given a lot to Indian hockey. Under him the team has shown considerable improvement, even though results were not showing to some extent,” said the two-time Olympic bronze medallist. “I feel what went against Oltmans was the defeats against Malaysia and Canada (both in Hockey World League Semifinals in London).”

With three important tournaments at home - the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the men’s World Cup - lined up in 16 months’ time, this decision has every chance of backfiring. Marijne, who has played for Netherlands, guided the Netherlands Under-21 women’s side to a World Cup title and the country’s senior women’s side to a gold at the Hockey World League Semifinals in 2015.

'Step in the backward direction'

Between 2011 and 2014, Marijne was the head coach of Netherlands Under-21 men’s team, and of Liaoning Men China.

Terming the move as a step in the backward direction, legendary forward Dhanraj Pillay said Harendra was a better choice for the men’s team. “It is a step in the backward direction. I can’t make any sense of the decisions taken. Harendra was a strong contender for the job,” Pillay said. “It is a negative decision. It seems Hockey India only wants to appoint foreign coaches.”

Another hockey stalwart Zafar Iqbal, a member of India’s last Olympic gold-medal-winning squad, was surprised by the decision. “It may be a good decision or may not be. There may be some reason behind the decisions. Oltmans was from Netherlands and Marijne too is a Dutchman and that might have [gone] in his favour. I feel Hockey India did not want to disturb the Oltmans style of play and that might be the reason behind appointing Marijne,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal, however, said Hockey India could have avoided the drama surrounding the coach’s appointment. “I am upset with the tamasha (drama) which HI has created by advertising for the post and later withdrawing it. Many interested candidates might feel offended,” he said.