Match Proves Dreams Can Come True: Women’s Hockey Coach Marijne

Tokyo:  Indian women’s hockey team coach, Dutch tactician Sjoerd Marijne, said after his side’s historic win against world No. 2 Australia in the quarterfinals at the Olympic Games that his mantra to the girls before the match was to “stay in the moment” and that is what made “a big difference” on Monday.

Underdogs India defeated Australia 1-0 to secure an unprecedented place in the semifinals, with many comparing the victory to the Indian men’s cricket team’s title triumph in the 1983 World Cup at Lord’s.

The Indian women’s team will take on Argentina in the semifinal on August 4.

“After we qualified for the quarters, I told the team about the importance of being in the moment and not thinking about what-ifs and that is very difficult for an athlete because there are many things that are constantly playing in your mind, things like what if we win, what if we don’t win, what if I don’t stop the ball. So what I did is showed the team a movie and the film is about staying in the moment and I think that made a big difference in this match against Australia,” said Marijne.

Marijne said that the biggest disadvantage for the team before it landed in Tokyo was the lack of match practice, as the side remained confined to the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru during and after the lockdown. And, with Europe and the rest of the world banning flights from India due to the pandemic, competitive matches were out of question.

“We didn’t have a lot of practice matches before the Olympics, so we kept telling the girls to improve with every match. We focused on every individual improving her performance and if the personal performances are better, the performance of the team will be better. We knew that we had to learn from every match that we play since we didn’t have a lot of games leading into the competition. After we lost 1-5 to the Netherlands, it looked as if everything was shattered, it wasn’t. We only needed to make a few small improvements,” said Marijne.

Marijne told the team to play without pressure as it had nothing to lose.

“Today, I told the girls to just play freely. The pressure is on the other team and that’s really important to know. The quarterfinal matches are really difficult for the teams who are higher ranked. And I wanted the players to be proud of themselves today, regardless of the result. And I told the players that at the end of the match, they shouldn’t feel their legs after running so much on the pitch. We defended well today. The defensive structure during penalty corners was very good.

“This match also proves dreams can come true. If you start believing and you keep believing, and you keep working hard, things can happen. You have to do the work to fulfil your dreams and that’s what we did today,” said the coach.