Janneke Schopman
Janneke Schopman (Photo | EPS)

Days after alleging discrimination, Schopman resigns as chief coach of Indian women's hockey team

Her contract was to end in August this year after the Paris Olympics but following her recent critical comments, it was expected that she won't continue.

CHENNAI: Days after Janneke Schopman hit out at Hockey India (HI), the women's coach has resigned from her post, effective immediately. Schopman, whose contract was to end in August after the completion of the Pro League, decided to walk away with a few months remaining.

In a press release, HI said, "It is time to begin a fresh chapter in Indian women's hockey with the players' progress at the centre of our focus." 

It's learned that the body, who had wanted to sack the Dutchwoman after India failed to qualify for the Olympics via the Asian Games last year, are after a coach 'who will revive women's hockey'. It's not yet known if there will be a permanent appointment made immediately or if they will keep their powder dry to fill the vacancy after the Olympics.

There are two ways to view Schopman's resignation. One, there is an unquestionable element of team underperformance. After a surprise fourth at the Tokyo games, the 46-year-old, who was an analytical coach for that team, was asked to keep the good times going.

While the team did win the Asian Champions Trophy, the lows were arguably greater. There was also an acrimonious falling out with Rani Rampal, who continues to be an important figure within India's small hockey fraternity. Considering HI wanted to remove her once before, this was in the post.

Janneke Schopman
Don't feel valued or respected as a coach in India: Schopman

But it's impossible to view this sacking without taking into account her words following the conclusion of the Indian leg of the Pro League. After beating the US on penalties, Schopman broke down while talking about dealing with HI officials. "I felt alone a lot in the last two years," she had said.

She went on to describe how she was not valued or respected by a majority of the members within HI, save Dilip Tirkey (president) and Elena Norman (CEO). "I come from a culture where women are respected and valued. I don’t feel that here. From not very many people – and I do feel people working here on the ground are amazing from Hockey India (HI) – but I feel it’s so hard."

In an extraordinary mixed zone interaction, she had even alleged preferential treatment for the men's team.

"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 never complain and they work so hard. I am not saying, I don’t know, I don’t know why and 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 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."  

When asked if she wanted to stay on irrespective of the environment, she had said: "I have spoken to the players a little. I appreciate their opinion. They are the ones in charge. I think they need to want me to be there, that's the first decision. Also, I need to want to be there. Hockey India needs to want me to be there." It's fair to say she has made that decision for them.

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