Indian hockey’s musical chair: Men’s coach Sjoerd Marijne to swap posts with Harendra Singh
Engaging in a game of musical chairs, Hockey India (HI) on Tuesday swapped the chief coaches of the men’s and women’s teams after a disastrous 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) campaign in Gold Coast last month.
Women’s team coach Harendra Singh will take over the men’s team, while Dutch expert Sjoerd Marijne will go back to his role of chief coach of the women’s team.
The men’s team, silver medallists at the 2010 and 2014 CWG, finished fourth in Gold Coast after a less-than-convincing display under Marijne. Soon after, some senior players expressed dismay over the Dutch coach’s contribution in the Gold Coast campaign.
The women’s team did not fare any better, though it reached the semi-final after a long gap, with their campaign ending with a 0-6 drubbing by England in the bronze-medal match.
Having coached the junior men’s team to the U-21 World Cup in Lucknow in 2016, Harendra was expected to take over as chief coach when Roelant Oltmans was sacked following the team’s poor performance at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in London last year.
However, in a surprise move, HI handed Harendra, who had never coached a women’s team, the charge of women’s team, giving Marijne, who was coach of the Dutch national women’s team, charge of men’s team.
This is Harendra’s fourth stint as men’s team coach. In 2010, he had resigned after India’s dismal showing at the Guangzhou Asian Games, saying he “accepted moral responsibility for the team’s performance.” India had lost to Malaysia in the semi-finals in 2010, thus failing to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
The decision to make Harendra chief coach of the men’s team makes little sense now, as his services could have been availed when Oltmans was shown the door in September last year. Former stars are not amused, saying HI should have picked Harendra earlier rather than give Marijne the reins.
“The decision makes no sense now. Harendra should have been given charge of the men’s team when Oltmans was shown the door. Harendra’s boys had won the Junior World Cup; he has coached the men’s team earlier too and has experience. That would have given him enough time to work with the players ahead of big tournaments like the Asian Games and World Cup…now there is not enough time,” said former India captain and coach Joaquim Carvalho.
Ashok Dhyanchand, star of 1975 World Cup-winning team, felt it was a panic decision after the CWG debacle. “Changing coaches frequently is no solution. Harendra should have been given charge of the men’s team after Oltmans while Marijne, who had developed a good rapport with the women’s team should have continued in his role,” he said.
Carvalho added that now that Hockey India had decided to swap coaches, both should be given enough time to perform. “Harendra should get the same kind of remuneration as his predecessor, same facilities and support staff of his choice. He is a thinking coach. I believe an Indian coach can do a better job if given proper facilities and support. Harendra knows the players as many of them have come up from the junior team,” added Carvalho.
A Hockey India release quoting Marijne said, “I’m excited to reunite with the women’s team and will look to focus on building on the good form exhibited by the team in the last six months as we look forward to the Hockey World Cup 2018.”
Harendra said: “It is an honour to now manage the men’s team. It has been a satisfying journey with the women’s team and I would like to thank Hockey India for entrusting me with the new role.”