IMAGE: Indian goalkeeper Savita Punia is consoled by team scientific advisor Wayne Lombard after the bronze medal match against Great Britain, at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, on Friday. Photograph: Gurinder Osan/PTI
A “proud” Indian women’s hockey team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne will not ask his players to hold back tears after the heart-breaking defeat in the Olympic bronze medal match, but wants them to cherish the reality that they have inspired the country with their lion-hearted show.
The history-making Indian women’s team lost 3-4 to Great Britain in a hard-fought bronze play-off at the Tokyo Games on Friday and secured its best-ever finish at the Olympics with a fourth-place finish.
The team had already created history and surpassed all expectations by entering the semi-finals for the first time in the Olympics.
“…first the emotion is about losing; yeah, you want to win, but really 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 make the country proud.’
“…I think the world has seen another Indian team, and I’m really proud of that.”
Marijne also lavished praised on the players for the fighting spirit they displayed throughout the competition.
“And normally when Indian woman’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.
IMAGE: India’s players in tears after losing the bronze play-off match on Friday. Photograph: Gurinder Osan/PTI
The coach expressed hope that his players will get a grand welcome back home for the tenacity they showed in the Games despite returning empty-handed.
“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.
Marinje also said the Indian women’s team needs more competitions to improve levels and win an Olympic medal.
“We need more matches. We haven’t had many since 2019. The only way I can see it is by organising more competitions for women like Hockey India League. Hopefully after this we get that.
“Last match we played under pressure is almost two years ago in the Olympics qualifiers. They (women’s hockey team) need more of these matches. And the only way I can think of is, organising Hockey India League and other tournaments. I hope these things will happen in future, because that is the only way to make the next step.”