Will go to Tokyo with medal in mind: Marijne
“If you try to reach for the stars, you will fall on the highest mountain but if you want to be on the mountain, you will fall on the ground.” That’s why Sjoerd Marijne, chief coach of the Indian women’s national hockey team, wants his girls to dream big at next year’s Tokyo Olympics. If they aim for gold, only then will they win a medal, reasons the 45-year-old Dutchman, now in his second stint with the women’s team.
India have been drawn in a tough Pool A for the Olympics. They will play the world No. 1 Netherlands, defending Olympic champions Great Britain, European powerhouse Germany, 2018 World Cup runners-up Ireland and South Africa. Pool B includes world No. 2 Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, China and Japan. The preliminary league will be played in a round-robin format, with the top four teams qualifying for crossover quarter-finals.
Though, on paper, the coach’s target may look a bit out of reach for a team ranked ninth in the world, his reasoning is flawless.
“You go to the Olympics with one thing in your mind—to win a medal. Of course there is nothing more beautiful than the gold medal, so we are going there to win a medal. I think that is the mindset we must have. I am not saying we are going to win, but only saying that we can achieve it,” Marijne told Hindustan Times over phone from Bangalore, where the team is currently stationed for a four-week physical conditioning camp.
Though India are the second lowest ranked team in the pool, Marijne is still confident of a good showing in Tokyo. “We are the second lowest ranked team in our pool but it doesn’t mean that we feel like that. It is also about how we play, how confident we are and (whether) we have the confidence to play against better countries. The match against Netherlands will be really tough. Normally, they are the better team and have the advantage over us but it will be good to see how we do against them. I don’t believe that match will decide where we finish at the Olympics because there are more opportunities. But yeah, I see it as a good challenge,” said Marijne.
The first target for India will be to qualify for the quarter-finals. “Yes, that is the first target. We will take things match by match. It is also about how good your players are on that particular day and how good are the opponents. We will have to prepare well and do our best,” Marijne said.
Getting the better of tough opponents—the United States—in the Olympic qualifiers a few weeks back has made him more hopeful of his team’s chances, Marijne admitted. India qualified on the basis of aggregate goals (6-5) after skipper Rani Rampal scored the all-important goal 10 minutes from time in the second leg, with the score level 5-5 on aggregate at that stage.
“I am happy with the resilience the team showed (in the qualifiers) and we have to continue with that and make better use of the opportunities that we get. We were very good in the first match but not so good in the second. But we came back strongly and qualified. We saw the match back and we saw the points we can improve on. One of the things is, of course, how we start the match. We will work hard on it,” Marijne said.