TOKYO: The Indian women's hockey team's outgoing coach Sjoerd Marijne on Friday said Rani Rampal and her gutsy teammates deserve more international exposure to build on their historic fourth-place finish at the Olympics and the national federation must introduce a domestic league for women to assist their growth.
Soon after guiding the team to its best ever performance in the Olympic Games, the 47-year-old Dutchman announced that he would no longer continue in his current job citing personal reasons despite being offered an extension.
Ending his stint with Indian hockey on a high, Marijne asked Hockey India to organise more high-pressure games for the women's side on home soil as well as abroad to maintain continuity in its progress.
"We have to do the same thing like what men did in the last 8 years, like Hockey India League if it's possible, participating in the Pro League, organising tournaments in India for the women. These kind of things will help," Marijne said after the end of India's Olympic campaign in hockey.
"In the last 4-5 matches, we really had pressure and we have to learn to deal with pressure by playing consistently against top teams. That's what the girls need to take big steps."
The outgoing coach feels the women's team should be treated at par with the men's outfit when it comes to exposure.
While India have a domestic league for men, there has been no such initiative yet for women.
"They (men's team) have HIL, Pro League, tournaments in India and that is what we also need. They had these for 8-10 years and so they could climb up the ladder," Marijne said commenting on the bronze medal that the men's team won here on Thursday.
"The more you play against the top countries the rankings will improve. We showed that we can do without those things and it will be great for women if they can have the same things as the men," he explained.
The history-making Indian women team lost 3-4 to Great Britain in a hard-fought bronze play-off.
This was after the team surpassed all expectations by entering the semifinals of the Olympics for the first time.
Marijne said his players are still emotional and haven't yet realised the impact of their powerful performance in Tokyo.
"First the emotion is about losing, yeah you want to win, but I feel proud. I'm proud of the girls, how they again showed their fight and skills," the Dutchman said.
"And I said to the girls, 'Listen, I can't take away your tears. No words will help for that. We didn't win the medal, but I think we achieved something bigger, and it's inspiring a country and making the country proud.'
"At this moment they are still emotional. When they reach India and see what they have done, then they will realise. We need to leave them at this moment. It takes time to come out of such a loss," he said.
"I think the world has seen another Indian team, and I'm really proud of that."
Marijne also lavished praise on the players for their fighting spirit throughout the competition.
"And normally when the Indian women's team is 2-0 behind they always went 3-0, 4-0, but now they keep fighting. We came back in the match, we even were one up."
"They kept fighting. I told them, 'You just give everything you've got," he said.
The coach hoped his players would get a grand welcome on their return home for the tenacity they showed in the Games despite narrowly missing out on a podium finish.
"I feel so blessed to have been able to do this four and a half years for India. And I'm overwhelmed with reactions. And there will be a moment the girls will realise this."
"And I hope the country will embrace them and keep them in the heart,' Marijne said.