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'India is extremely difficult as a woman': Indian women's hockey coach Janneke Schopman makes massive allegations

Published at :February 19, 2024 at 7:56 PM
Modified at :February 19, 2024 at 7:56 PM
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(Courtesy : Hockey India)

Ajay Gandhar

She also accused the Federation of bias against the women’s team.

Indian women’s hockey team coach Janneke Schopman recently accused Hockey India, the sport’s national governing body, of serious misconduct. Janneke Schopman spoke to the media on Sunday, following India’s 2-1 victory over the USA in the last game of the Rourkela leg of the Women’s FIH Pro League 2023-24 at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium.

Janneke, who won the Olympic gold medal with the Netherlands in 2008, joined the Indian team as an analytical coach in 2020 and became the head coach after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

She has been vocal about the gender discrimination she faces in India and revealed how she is treated differently from the men’s coach and how the women players are often overlooked and underappreciated.

“I look at the difference at how men’s coaches are treated… between me and the men’s coach, or the girls and the men’s team, just in general. They (the women players) never complain, and they work so hard. I shouldn’t speak for them, so I won’t. I love them. I think they work so hard; they do what I ask, they wanna learn, wanna do new things.

“But for me personally, coming from the Netherlands, having worked in the USA, this country is extremely difficult as a woman, coming from a culture where, yeah, you can have an opinion and it’s valued. It’s tough,” she was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

Schopman recalled an incident last year when the men’s team failed to make the quarterfinals of the World Cup at home. She said the men’s team got all the attention after that. “I just know that when the World Cup didn’t go well for the men’s team, all focus was on them. Since February 2023, all the focus was on the men’s team.”

Janneke Schopman is no stranger to challenges. The former Dutch hockey star has won two Olympic medals, a World Cup, and several European championships in her illustrious career. But nothing prepared her for the difficulties she encountered when she took up the role of coaching the Indian women’s hockey team in 2020.

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She said: “Even when I was the assistant coach some people wouldn’t even look at me or wouldn’t acknowledge me or wouldn’t respond and then you become the chief coach and all of a sudden people are interested in you. I struggled a lot with that.”

After losing 4-0 to China and missing out on the Olympic Quota at the Asian Games, the Indian women’s team faced a lot of criticism and Schopman’s coaching was questioned.

Schopman reportedly was almost sacked by the federation’s secretary-general Bhola Nath Singh after India could not win the gold medal at the Asian Games last year but was stopped by Hockey India president and former India captain Dilip Tirkey.

She appreciated the support from Tirkey and the organization’s CEO Elena Norman, who have been backing her despite the odds. She said: ‘Elena has been very, very supportive always and she’s kept me in this position.’ Schopman also admitted that her family advised her to leave after a year, as she found it too hard to cope with the cultural differences and the lack of respect for women in India.

She said she should have quit after the Commonwealth Games, where India finished fourth, but decided to stay on for the sake of the players. “The girls are amazing. They work so hard, they do what I ask, they want to learn, they want to do new things. They deserve better.”

Schopman, the first woman to coach the Indian hockey team, has been in limbo since India missed out on the Paris Olympics in January. Her contract was valid till the Games in July-August and India’s next event, according to the schedule, is the European leg of the Pro League in May.

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