This country is extremely difficult as a woman: India women’s hockey team coach alleges differential treatment

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FEBRUARY 19, 2024

India women’s hockey team coach Janneke Schopman alleged differential treatment by the administrators of the sport in India, saying she has felt all alone since taking over the job of the head coach. Schopman, who won the Gold medal with the Netherlands women’s team in the Beijing Olympics, said her opinions have not been valued enough in her tenure.Â

Janneke Schopman, who acknowledged the support from Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, broke down during an interaction with the media on Sunday after India defeated USA via shootout in an “FIH Pro League match in Rourkela on Sunday. In the teary-eyed interaction, Schopman alleged differential treatment from multiple stakeholders of the sport.”

“Because I come from a culture where women are respected and valued. I don’t feel that here. From not very many people – and I do feel people working here on the ground are amazing from Hockey India. But I feel it’s so hard,” Schopman said, as quoted by The New Indian Express.

“I look at the difference in 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 never complain and they work so hard. I am not saying, I don’t know, I don’t know why and 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 really hard,” she added.Â

Janneke Schopmann, 46, took over the head coach role after India’s fourth-place finish in the Tokyo Olympics. Initially appointed as the analytical coach for the Indian women’s hockey team in January 2020, he transitioned to the head coach role following the Tokyo Olympics. Her elevation came after Sjoerd Marijne, the previous head coach, declined a contract extension, paving the way for Schopman’s leadership.

Under the guidance of Schopman, the Indian women’s hockey team has experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and performances. Despite showcasing resilience and skill on the international stage, the team faced a significant setback by missing out on a berth for the Paris Olympics. This disappointment came after a series of commendable achievements, including bronze medals at the 2022 Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games, a third-place finish in the 2021-22 Pro League, and clinching the first-ever FIH Women’s Nations Cup in 2022.

After their Olympic dreams ended during the FIH Olympic qualifier in Ranchi in January, the team, coached by Schopman, embarked on a path of recovery and reflection.

TO QUIT OR NOT

The former Dutch player said she struggled with the lack of acknowledgement of her opinions when she was part of the support staff in the past.Â

“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. That is one thing,” she added.Â

Schopman said she has not yet made up her mind on whether to stay on as the coach of the senior women’s team, but highlighted that the players want her to carry on and guide them.Â

“I’m going to reflect, ‘did I do a good enough job, yes or no?’. I need to ask that myself,” she said.Â

“I have spoken to the players a little. I appreciate their opinion. They are the ones in charge. I think they need to want me to be there, that’s the first decision. Also, I need to want to be there. Hockey India needs to want me to be there. At this point, I must say Dilip Tirkey has been very very supportive since the Asian Games and that, I have appreciated a lot. It’s been tough for me, the team. I must say the support I haven’t felt a lot in the last year so his support means a lot,” she added.


Courtesy: India Today / PTI