‘Extremely difficult as a woman…’: India women's coach Schopman hits out at HI | Hockey - Hindustan Times

‘This country is extremely difficult as a woman…’: India women's coach Janneke Schopman hits out at HI

Feb 20, 2024 09:34 AM IST

Janneke Schopman said that she feels "she is not taken seriously” and there is a difference in how the Indian women's and men's teams are treated

India women's hockey team coach Janneke Schopman has hit out at Hockey India for what she says she sees as preferential treatment that it gives to the men's team and said that she didn't feel "valued and respected" by her employers. Schopman made the comments moments after India's victory over the USA via tie-breakers in an FIH Pro League at the Birsa Munda Stadium on Sunday.

Janneke Schopman was part of Sjoerd Marijne's coaching staff which led India to a historic fourth-placed finish at the Tokyo Olympics. (PTI)
Janneke Schopman was part of Sjoerd Marijne's coaching staff which led India to a historic fourth-placed finish at the Tokyo Olympics. (PTI)

Schopman said that she did not feel valued ever since she first arrived in India as an analytical coach on the staff of then-head coach Sjoerd Marijne. She said that she has generally seen a difference in how she is treated in India compared to other male coaches. “Very hard, very hard. Because, you know, I come from a culture where women are respected and valued. I don’t feel that here,” Schopman is quoted as saying by the Indian Express about working with officials in Hockey India.

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The Indian women's team had failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics later this year. Schopman had earlier been part of Marijne's coaching staff which led them to a historic fourth-placed finish at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, missing out on a bronze medal by the barest of margins. “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,” she said.

Schopman, who won gold with the Netherlands at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and earlier coached the USA women's team, said that working in India is "extremely difficult as a woman" coming from the countries she has worked in before. “I look at the difference at 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 (the women players) never complain and they work so hard. 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,” Schopman said.

The Dutchwoman said it became clear to her that preferential treatment is given to the men's team after the latter's failure to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup last year which India hosted. “I just know that when the World Cup didn’t go well for the men’s team, all focus was on them. Since February 2023, all the focus was on the men’s team,” she said.

“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 said. Schopman however said that HI president and former India captain Dilip Tirkey has been supportive, as has the governing body's CEO Elena Norman. “If you asked my family, I should have left after a year. In hindsight, I should have left after the Commonwealth Games because it was too hard for me to manage,” she said. Asked what was the hardest bit, she said: “The fact that I feel – I don’t even know if it’s true – that I am not taken seriously.”

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