By appointing Netherland’s Sjoerd Marijne as coach of the senior men’s hockey team, Hockey India and the Sports ministry have left almost everyone stunned. Harendra Singh, who was the front runner for the position, was appointed as coach of the women’s team, that was being coached by Marijne. The women’s team is currently is on a European tour.

Marijne replaces fellow countryman Roleant Oltmans and will be coaching a senior men’s team for the first time in his career. This, according to former Olympian Rahul Singh, is a move that will not reap great rewards.

“A Dutch coach already failed to perform his duties with the men’s team and again you have given a chance to a Dutch coach. The formation is same, playing style is same, so if you had to improve the performance of the men’s team and wanted to appoint a foreign coach then you should have hired an Australian coach. The pattern of style and formation of an Australian coach is similar to an Indian coach are similar,” Rahul, a member of the 1996 Atlanta Games squad, told The Field.

However, he said that an Indian coach should have been given a chance after India’s ongoing experiment with foreign coaches since 2012 has not been fruitful. He was stunned to hear about Harendra’s appointment as coach of the women’s team and had backed the man to get the role with the men’s team.

“In my opinion, Singh should be given a chance to coach the senior men’s team and Marijne, who was coaching with the women’s team for the past one year, should be with women’s team only. The women’s team has performed well under him. So he knows the team better than Harendra,” said Rahul.

Rahul said that Harendra had worked with the same bunch of boys during his stint as coach of the junior team, which won the World Cup and knew their way of functioning thoroughly – a sentinment that was echoed by former national coach Michael Nobbs during an interaction with The Field. Rahul added that Marijne would find the transition tough.

“Harendra has immense experience. The junior team that he coaches is now in the senior team. Almost 70% are the same. Harendra knew their playing style, their strength, their physical fitness and skill better than Marijne. By the time Marijne gets a hang of these things, the World Cup will be upon us,” said Rahul.

However, he backed women’s hockey to reach greater heights if Harendra was coaching them. “Harendra now needs to understand the fitness and style of the women’s team. But still if he accepts the challenge then it will benefit women’s hockey immensely. A man who won the World Cup with the junior men’s team, can take women’s hockey to new heights.

Decision taken to benefit Indian hockey

However, Dr RP Singh, Athlete Representative of Hockey India backed the decision and said only future performances will determine whether the decision was good or bad. “Whatever decision was taken was taken for the good of Indian hockey obliviously. How can we say that it is the wrong decision? We will keep an eye on future performances of both teams and after that only can we comment whether the decision to elect Marijne and Harendra was right or wrong,” said Singh.

Singh also said that Marijne and Harendra know the system of Hockey India and hence will not find the transition tough.

“For almost one year he has been coaching the women’s team and he knows the functioning of Hockey India and is used to it. Harendra was the coach of the Hockey junior men’s team. He knows the system also very well. We can only hope that this decision will work for the betterment of Indian hockey and performances will improve for both teams,” said Singh.

However, Marijne has never coached a senior men’s team before and Harendra has never coached a women’s team before. So the entire decision has the capability of backfiring.

“What is coaching? If you have the knowledge of the subject, then if it is men’s or women’s, you can teach both. If you don’t know anything of the subject then you can’t teach. Where is it written that they only have to coach women’s and men’s team? If you have the knowledge and motivation then it doesn’t matter whether you get the men’s team or women’s team,” said Singh.

He said that the upcoming year will give us a clear picture whether the decision was right or wrong. “First challenge is the Asia Cup in October and then Hockey World League final in December. The upcoming year is very crucial. We have the Commonwealth Games, World Cup, and Asian Games. So within the next year we will find out everything,” said Singh.