In an unprecedented move, Hockey India has swapped the men’s and women’s team coaches after a week-long review of the Commonwealth Games that concluded recently in Australia, where both teams finished fourth.
The game’s governing body sacked Sjoerd Marijne as coach of the men’s team on Tuesday and named Harendra Singh as his replacement. Harendra, who led the junior men’s team to the World Cup title in 2016, had succeeded Marijne as the women’s team coach last October. Both have been given contracts till 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Hockey India’s high performance director David John said Marijne was removed as the men’s team coach because of the poor result in Gold Coast, where the team finished outside the podium after silver medals in the last two editions.
Curiously, though, John admitted that the coach wasn’t at fault as much as the players.
“The team actually caused the problem. If they had performed to standard, particularly the strikers, we wouldn’t be in this situation. At every match in the Commonwealth Games, we should have been leading 3-0 at quarter-time… The strikers didn’t get the results, didn’t get the goals. As a result, we put ourselves under pressure and as a result of that pressure, we finished fourth,” John told The Indian Express.
Marijne is the 24th coach of the men’s team who has been sacked in as many years, and the fifth in last five years. John, who was the Indian team’s physio at the London Olympics, said the below-par performance of the players has largely been the reason for this.
“I think it’s been a problem for the last five coaches since 2011. We continually come up with statistics like we had the most circle entries in every tournament but at the end of the day, we don’t get the most number of goals in the tournament and it’s causing us problems,” he said.
With the Commonwealth Games debacle triggering panic within Hockey India, a review meeting was called last week when senior players criticised the coach’s strategies and selection policies. They expressed doubts over his ability to help the team defend its Asian Games gold medal in August and come up with a respectable performance at the World Cup in December. This loss of trust was the final nail in the coffin for Marijne, said sources.
While the fourth-place finish is considered “dismal” for the men, the same position has been seen as a “positive” for the women, more so because they stunned Olympic champions England in the group stages. Harendra has been credited for the turnaround in his six-month stint with the team, during which they also won the Asia Cup.
John said the swap of coaches is a win-win scenario for all. Marijne, he said, enjoys the confidence of the women players while Harendra has plenty of experience in handling the men’s team.
However, John claimed that “significant changes” will be made to the playing group and that the players have been pulled up as well. “The players are also going to be made very much aware that it was their execution and performance… that needs to improve. We can’t keep continuing to sack coaches,” he said.