The Dutch tactician guided the Indian women’s hockey team to a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics.

Sjoerd Marijne is a well-known figure in the Indian hockey sphere due to his incredible achievements with the Indian women’s team. He led the women to a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, the highest they have ever finished. Narrowly missing out on a first-ever medal was a disappointment. However, a lot of fans saw the progress made under the Dutch head-coach. 

Soon after the conclusion of the tournament where the women’s hockey team defeated the likes of Australia, Marijne stepped down from his role. He cited wanting to spend more time with his family as the reason for the sudden step. This came as a shock to the hockey fraternity but fans were extremely thankful for the improvement that took place on Marijne’s watch.

In an exclusive chat with Khel Now, Sjoerd Marijne revealed his views on the performance at the Olympics, the players, future for the women’s team and more.

Introduction to Indian hockey

Sjoerd Marijne talked about the initial phase of his time in India and how he managed to become the head coach of the women’s team. “I was interested after I saw the girls playing at the Junior World Cup in 2012. I thought they had good potential, and I wanted to do something special. That is something you can do in India, they were ranked No.13 in the world and it was in the back of my mind that if I bring this team higher up, it will be amazing,” he recalled.

“I was searching for a new challenge, I like big challenges and that is what this was,” he added while talking about the reason behind choosing the Indian team as a project.

Show of resilience at the Olympics

The women’s team had a terrible start to their campaign in Tokyo. The outfit lost their first three group matches to the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain. Talking about how he managed to motivate the players to make a strong comeback in the remaining fixtures, Sjoerd Marijne revealed, “I knew that the last two matches we had to win and the girls also knew that. First of all, I was a bit angry at the girls and the other thing that happened is, I showed them a movie.”

“That movie is about being in the moment, and not thinking about ‘what if’. Focusing on the task, and if all the players are doing that, then you get a task-driven team,” the coach revealed, though he was tight lipped when asked which movie it was.

Praise for Vandana Katariya

Vandana Katariya in action against South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics (Courtesy: Hockey India)

There were many players in the Indian women’s hockey team who caught the eye and one of them was Vandana Katariya. The attacker secured a crucial hat-trick against South Africa and earned a lot of praise for her performance.

“The goalscorer is the end of the chain. She did really well, but someone had to give her the ball. She knows that well, she has learnt that, she has improved very much. Vandana worked really hard for it and I was really happy for her,” Marijne quipped.

The match against the Aussies

India created a huge upset when they defeated world No.3 Australia in the quarterfinals. India kept the Australian attack silent in the game.

“You know Australia is so good and you know they will have their opportunities. But, I also knew that Savita (Punia) was playing really well and I think she had proven that in that match also. What I liked most about that match was how much we were focused on our job, our tasks, every player and every individual. That is why we won that match,” Sjoerd Marijne stated.

“I think in these times, that (coming fourth) is their biggest achievement till date,” he declared.

Feeling post the elimination from the Olympics

India lost their bronze medal match to Great Britain and came agonizingly close to a podium finish. “It was heartbreaking and the girls were crying a lot (post the defeat),” the Dutchman reminisced.

“Then, Prime Minister Modi called us and it really helped the girls to understand that we didn’t win the medal but we achieved something bigger and that was winning the hearts of all 1.3 billion Indians,” he added.

“We inspired 1.3 billion Indians, and girls are coming in a position to make women’s hockey better in India – one of the biggest goals we had. That’s why we achieved something bigger. Creating a legacy is something better than winning a medal,” Sjoerd Marijne signed off.

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