Hockey coach says India ‘extremely difficult for women’

In Sports
March 29, 2024



NEW DELHI:

India women’s hockey coach and former Olympic gold medallist Janneke Schopman has hit out at the gender disparity in the country, both in sport and society more widely.

Schopman, the first woman to coach an Indian national hockey team, broke down as she described the preferential treatment enjoyed by the men’s team.

“I come from a culture where women are respected and valued. I don’t feel that here,” Schopman, 46, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper on Monday.

The former Dutch international was speaking after India defeated the United States via a tie-breaker in a FIH Pro League match in Odisha on Sunday.

From poor pay to lack of training grounds and media coverage, women athletes in India have long faced inequality, especially in male-dominated sports such as hockey and cricket.

Schopman said she felt “alone a lot in the last two years” and wasn’t “valued and respected” by her employers, Hockey India.

“I look at the difference at how men’s coaches are treated… or the girls and the men’s team, just in general,” 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.”

Schopman took over as the women’s team head coach after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, having initially joined as the analytics coach.

“Even when I was the assistant coach some people wouldn’t even look at me or wouldn’t acknowledge me… 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.

Asked what was hardest, she said: “The fact that I feel — I don’t even know if it’s true — that I am not taken seriously.”

Hockey India officials could not be contacted immediately for a comment.

Schopman’s two-year contract runs until the Paris Olympics later this year. Her team have failed to qualify for the Games, and are next slated to play in the European leg of the Pro League in May.

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