The Indian women hockey team’s splendid fourth-place finish at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics brought one thing to the fore – women’s hockey in India is poised for bigger things ahead. And much of the credit for the women team’s resurgence was attributed to Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne, who was first given the charge of the national women’s team in September 2017 before being temporarily handed charge of the national men’s team in late 2017 before being given the reins of the women’s team in 2018 (after a pretty disappointing run with the men’s team). Marijne’s credentials are impressive – he has played for The Netherlands, led the Dutch U-21 women’s side to a World Cup title as well as the Dutch senior women’s side to a gold at the 2015 Hockey World League Semifinals.
Well, no one is taking away the contributions of Sjoerd Marijne in developing the Indian women’s hockey team into what where it is today being ranked outside the top-10 for a fairly long period of time. But hang on, we are all proud of what the Indian women’s hockey team had achieved at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and no one is denying the credit Marijne deserves for all the work put in for the women’s team. But post-Tokyo Olympics one got the impression that the team had attained a podium finish at the Olympics and not missed out on a medal by a whisker.
Let understand one thing – the progress of the Indian women’s hockey team has been triggered by a long-drawn process and it is not as if everything was a ‘sunshine moment’ since Marijne took over in February 2017. How one can forget the coaching credentials of Aussie Neil Hawgood under whom Indian women’s team qualified for the Olympics after a hiatus of 36 years – a ‘significant high’ for a side that used to be the whipping girls of world hockey. Under Hawgood, the Indian eves won the 2014 Incheon Asian Games bronze medal as well as a coveted bronze medal at the 2013 Junior Women’s World Cup in Monchengladbach. So, the Aussie clearly played his part in the larger process of building the women’s team during his two coaching stints between 2012 and 2016. Similarly, Harendra Singh cannot be denied credit for developing the women’s team – all these coaches did their bit and it wasn’t about just coach turning things around for the national women’s hockey team.
Marijne has surely done his bit for the Indian women’s hockey team but let’s also not discount the fact that all other coaches preceding him also did their bit for the women’s team climbing up the ladder. All these were also possible because of the unstinted support of Hockey India as far as facilitating training programmes, foreign tours, support staff, etc is concerned. We all are proud of the women team’s fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics and celebrating our Olympic performance is all fine. But we shouldn’t look at that performance like an Olympic medal and keep raising the bar. Clearly, it would be unjust to suggest that Marijne was singularly responsible for the uptick in the Indian women team’s performances – the Dutchman along with the ones preceding him deserve also deserve credit for taking Indian women hockey forward – a baton that is now being carried forward by Janneke Schopman.