Published:August 24, 2017 5:40 pm
In a first of its kind, the Indian women hockey team will play two matches against Beligum’s junior men’s team when they tour Europe next month, in order to get them better prepared for Asia Cup, that is set to take place in Japan later this year.
This is not the first time that team coach Sjoerd Marijne has done something like this. When he was the coach of Dutch team, he had played his side against men as he said that it heps make the game quick. He said in an interview to ESPN, “Playing against boys speeds up the game. You have to be faster, stronger and if you don’t do that, the boys will punish you immediately. If you want a sporting equivalent, this is a bit like a 100m sprinter but running extra downhill. They will put a lot of speed into the game. That speed must feel normal for us, which is not always possible when playing against girls. We have to defend really well.”
Beligum junior team is known to be a strong team, having finished runners-up behind India at the last World Cup in Lucknow in December 2016. “The reason for selecting Belgium as an opponent is that they are a really structured team, which is always important,” Marijne said.
The decision to play women against men has garnered interest in the hockey fraternity. Former India goalkeeper AB Subbaiah said, “In India, we often used to play against the women’s team in practice. We fielded institutional teams like Services, Air India, Indian Airlines or even the Sports Authority of India hostel sides against women’s senior or men’s junior team for meaningful practice. But I’m quite sure this is the first time the women’s team will be travelling abroad to face a junior men’s team, that too Belgium.”
Former Olympic medallist Vece Paess said, “A 16-year-old girl would be more mature, both emotionally as well as physically, than a boy of the same age. Playing sport with a boy would still help a girl develop well, as has been the case with badminton where top women players have often credited practising regularly alongside boys to their improved performances.”
“A matchup between your senior women’s team and a junior men’s team is a good one,” he added. “It will be a learning experience, and I hope the team doesn’t get disheartened if they lose.”
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