Indian women’s hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne told his team to be proud of themselves and embrace the fact of inspiring a whole nation and making the Indians proud.
The Indian women’s hockey team lost a hard-fought bronze medal match 5-4 to Great Britain, leaving the team in tears. By finishing fourth, the team achieved its best-ever finish at the Olympics and managed to reach the semi-finals for the first time ever.
“Before today’s match, I told them to give everything and they showed fighting spirit. I told them after the game, `Listen, we didn’t win the medal but I think we achieved something bigger than a medal and that is inspiring a whole nation and making Indians proud’,” said Marijne in a virtual press interaction organised by Hockey India on Friday.
He added, “We all are still emotional at the moment. Losing matches hurt for athletes. It will take time but it is a good thing that they are disappointed and want to do better.”
When quizzed about how the Indian team made a turnaround, Marijne said, “After the match against Great Britain in the pool, I was extremely angry with the team. They were throwing their chances. I was so angry that I told them they need to pull up their performance and show their best. I was quite happy with the Netherlands. We did well as they are the best team. We did well against Germany but gave some goals away. But in the pool match against GB, I felt this is really not good enough. We really wanted to play the last two matches in a good way. That really transformed the team to another mindset. The team knows that when I get angry with them, then it is serious.”
He further explained, “It took a lot of individual meetings with the girls and found a key for the next match themselves. After the match, I showed them some clips of a movie about being in the moment and what you can and cannot control. That movie really helped the girls with being busy and doing things outside of their control. From the match against Ireland, the turnaround point started to happen and the belief starts working more with the team.”
Marijne also revealed that Friday’s match was his last game as the Indian team coach. “I don’t have any plans because this was my last match with Indian women. It’s up to Janneke (Schopman, analytical coach) now. I will miss the girls. But I miss my family more. My family is No 1. I want to be with my son, daughter and wife after being away for three and a half years. This is a beautiful way to end this journey.”
Asked about how the Indian women’s team could make improvements in the future, the 47-year-old Dutchman said, “If you ask me about the future, I think the main important thing is we need more matches. Like they last played an Olympic qualifier under pressure almost two years ago. They need more of those matches like organising Hockey India League for the women, be a part of the FIH Pro League and organise tournaments in India. Now that everybody has seen what women are capable of, I hope these things will happen in the future because that is the only way to make the next steps.”
Janneke, who was a member of the Netherlands team which won silver and gold in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, was in praise of the team’s performanc at the Tokyo Olympics. “After our semifinal match against Argentina, one of their best players came to us and said she was impressed by our improved performance from the January tour and how much the girls played their hearts out. As a coach, there is nothing more important than wanting success. But for me, how they fight and play as a team, that is hardwork. People don’t see that journey. For me, it has been incredibly rewarding to be a part of it because of their mindset and wanting to learn, to get better, to fall back and then get together. It’s truly been amazing.”