Women’s team coach breaks down describing gender bias in Indian hockey

“I come from a culture where women are respected and valued. I don’t feel that here,” Janneke Schopman said

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 27: Janneke Schopman of USA on the bench during the Women’s FIH Field Hockey Pro League match between Great Britain and USA at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on April 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for FIH)

Eastern Eye

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.

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 on Monday (19).

The former Dutch international was speaking after India defeated the United States via a tiebreaker in a FIH Pro League match in Odisha on Sunday (18).

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

“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, 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.

Hockey India officials could not be contacted for a comment.