CHENNAI: Months after Rani Rampal was dropped from the Indian women’s hockey team core group, the former India captain and a legend of Indian hockey broke her silence on Thursday. Rani accused the current coach of the Indian women’s team, Janneke Schopman, for her ouster from the national team. Rani claims she is still fit and on top of her game.
Rani, who interestingly has been roped in by Hockey India as chief coach of its under-17 programme for girls, spoke about this when she was asked if accepting this role means she has retired from the game.
“Whatever happened to me in the last two years wasn’t right. I came back from an injury, was the top scorer at the National Games, but wasn’t picked 9in the national team),” said Rani, who was ignored for both the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as the World Cup.
“The best people who can give an answer to this are the Chief Coach or the selectors because I don’t know the answer,” said Rani, adding that she won’t stop fighting for a comeback.
“I am not retiring since I know I still have more to give to the sport as a player,” said the veteran skipper of India’s last two Olympic appearances.
Under Rani’s leadership, the India women’s team registered their best finish at the Olympics, finishing fourth at the Tokyo Olympics last year, when Sjoerd Marijne was the team’s chief coach and Schopman his assistant.
After the Games, Marijne left the job and Hockey India elevated Schopman to the role of the Chief Coach.
Since Schopman took over, there have been reports of rifts in the team and Rani being allegedly sidelined by colluding players. However, Rani also suffered multiple injuries during that period. She however made a sensational comeback at the National Games, leading Haryana to the women’s hockey gold by scoring a whopping 18 goals.
She was replaced as India skipper by goalkeeper Savita Punia.
“I have this thing in me to not give up. If I had to, I would have given up after the Olympics,” said Rani.
She added categorically that “I accepted this (role of chief coach of the u-17 girls programme) since it is a short-term programme that could be converted into a long-term project. Initially, it’s a 45-day camp.”
Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, who was also present at the press conference to announce Rani and former India men’s captain Sardar Singh as the chief coaches of the under-17 programme for girls and boys, said that the federation is looking at a three-year period for the programme at this stage.
Rani also mentioned that she had raised the issue with the HI president.
When asked if the federation has looked into Rani’s complaints, Tirkey said: “We can understand Rani isn’t in the team and we have asked the coach and selectors why such a player hasn’t been included.”
He, however, said that the HI president or secretary general Bhola Nath Singh, who was part of the press conference, do not interfere in selection matters.
“When a team is selected, the president and the secretary don’t interfere. It’s the responsibility of the selectors and coach. I have spoken with Rani, who was very upset. We can’t share all the details but after talking to her, we offered her to become a (U-17) coach,” said Tirkey.
Rani stood by her comment that she is not thinking about retiring. She is employed by the Sports Authority of India and currently deployed at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala.
On being asked if HI will support Rani’s bid to return to India colours, Bhola Nath didn’t answer in clear terms, saying that the federation “always supports its players and is welcoming”.
Former India men’s captain Sardar, who retired in 2019, will continue in his dual role as a senior selection committee member and chief coach of the sub-junior program.