The unceremonious sacking of national men’s hockey team coach Roelant Oltmans by Hockey India (HI) created controversy. The issue was handled unprofessionally by the officials exactly in the same manner when some previous foreign coaches like Ric Charelsworth, Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh and Paul Van Ass were shown the door.
Now, just after 6 days of Oltmans sacking, Hockey India again stirred controversy by appointing his countryman Sjoerd Marijne as the chief coach of the senior men’s hockey coach. The Dutchman was serving the Indian women’s team as the head coach since February 2017. The decision came as a surprise for many as Hockey India had advertised for the job of national coach on its website just 3 days ago. It had set September 15, 2017 as the deadline to apply for the post. However, HI stated, “The advertisement has been withdrawn as both HI and the Sports Authority of India felt Marijne is the best candidate for the job having spent more than six months in the country,”
Marijne is a former hockey player having played HC Den Bosch, one of Netherlands’ leading hockey club. With the club, Marijne was national champion twice (in 1998 and 2001) and also won the Euro Hockey Club Champions Cup in 1999. He started his coaching career in 2001 with TMHC Tilburg and then moved to Amsterdam H & BC in 2004. He took the team to the final in the national championship twice. In 2011, Marijne coached the Dutch junior hockey team whom he guided to a third-place finish at the 2013 Junior World Cup. He was appointed Netherlands’ women’s team coach in 2014. That year they won bronze in the Champions Trophy. In 2015, the Dutch women’s team won gold at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in 2015 in Antwerp and silver in the Euro Hockey Nations Championship. After taking charge of Indian women’s hockey team, Sjoerd Marijne guided them to qualify for the Hockey World League Semi-Final in April but then they finished 8th in the Semi-Final in July.
Although Marijne has a successful stint as a hockey coach, yet his appointment is debatable because of his inexperience in coaching a senior national men’s team. Most former players opined that with 3 very important tournaments – the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the men’s World Cup – lined up in 16 months’ time, this decision may prove fatal for the team. Sources say that Marijne was himself reluctant to accept the position but agreed after HI convinced him. However, after the appointment, the coach said, “I never said I am not interested or I am reluctant. I have plenty of experience of coaching a men’s side at the senior level but I never coached an international team.”
Besides Sjoerd Marijne’s appointment, the selection of Harendra Singh as High Performance Specialist coach of the senior women’s team also led to controversy. The former coach of junior team that won the World Cup in 2016 was willing to shoulder the responsibility of the senior team. But Harendra was not given a chance because perhaps HI did not want to disturb the Dutch style of coaching.
Another important matter to be noted in this appointment procedure is the declaration of the decision by the newly-appointed Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on his official twitter page. According to reports both Marijne and Harendra have been given a tenure till the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.