Olympic Hockey Qualifiers: Coach Schopman wants team to forget past, work hard on present event

Indian women's hockey team gets ready for the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers starting

Ranchi (Jharkhand), Jan 11 (IANS) As the Indian women’s hockey team gets ready for the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers starting here on Saturday, head coach Janneke Schopman advised the players and hockey fans to forget the past and think about the future.

Addressing a press conference two days ahead of India’s opening match against the United States, a team she coached till 2019, Schopman said that the team missed clinching a direct berth at the Hangzhou Asian Games was a fact and there was no point commiserating on that.

India are in Group B along with New Zealand, the United States and Italy as eight teams in the fray have been divided into two groups of four each. Pool A comprises World No.5 Germany, 2018 Asian Games gold medallist Japan, Chile and the Czech Republic. These eight teams are fighting for the three spots available at Ranchi for the Paris Olympic Games later this year.

On paper, Germany should clinch one of the three spots up for grabs in Ranchi, while India, New Zealand, USA and Japan will be fighting for the two remaining berths from this event.

Schopman said there was no point in discussing too much about Hangzhou now. She said the players have to concentrate on the Olympic qualifiers where they will have to give their all to clinch the quota place.

Schopman, the 46-year-old former player from the Netherlands, who won the Olympic silver (2004) and gold (2008) with her native country, is quite experienced in managing teams having previously coached club teams in her country and the United States U-21 side from 2014-2017, and tried to deflect attention from the past to the present.

“It doesn’t work to live in the past, they know we had a chance in the Asian Games and we didn’t qualify. It doesn’t work for us to keep going back to that, we know we missed an opportunity but from that moment on, from October onwards, our focus was on this event,” she said.

She said that with this event in mind, the Indian team played the Asian Champions Trophy here to gain experience of the conditions and is confident of putting its best in the Olympic Qualifiers.

Asked about India’s poor head-to-head record against New Zealand and the United States, their strong opponents in Pool B, Schopman said it doesn’t matter whether they will be scrappy, they will give their best and try and win these matches.

Asked about the absence of experienced defender Deep Grace Ekka, a penalty-corner expert whose contribution would have been valuable in defending the short corners, and senior drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur and the pressure it brings on youngster Deepika, Schopman said there are options available for the team.

“We have other options, Vinita is developing as a good drag flicker and I am very pleased with that. Then we have Neha and Navneet, who too we have good drag flicks, We have Salima (Tete) as a backup with her slap shots, so we have good options,” said the chief coach who added that penalty corner is only one aspect of the game and success in it does not depend on one person.

Schopman said the team has learned its lessons from the Asian Games and has prepared well for the Olympic Qualifiers.

There is no point living in the past, was her message to the players and other stakeholders ahead of what could be a make-or-break event both for the Indian women’s team and Schopman, who had taken charge as chief coach after the Tokyo Olympic Games, in which she was assistant coach under Sjoerd Marijne.

–IANS

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