Explained: The controversy surrounding ex-Indian hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne's book

Former Hockey India coach Sjoerd Marijne's upcoming book 'Will Power' has created a lot of controversies even before its release.

FP Explainers September 20, 2022 16:57:53 IST
Explained: The controversy surrounding ex-Indian hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne's book

Sjoerd Marijne in a file photo. Hockey India

Former India hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne’s upcoming book “Will Power: The Inside Story of the Incredible Turnaround in Indian Women’s Hockey” has created a lot of controversies even before its release on 21 September.

Marijne, who guided the women’s team to their joint-best fourth-place finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has his new book pegged around the transformation of the women’s hockey team but it includes certain elements that have not gone down well with stakeholders of Indian hockey and some of the players.

On 19 September, the Delhi High Court restrained Marijne and the publisher (HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt Ltd) of his book from publishing about the medical condition of a celebrated player. Earlier, Hockey India (HI) had said that the governing body is in the process of “pursuing legal remedies” against Marijne and the publisher of the book for making an accusation against men’s team captain Manpreet Singh. Marijne had also briefly coached the India men’s hockey team.

We take a detailed look at the controversies surrounding the book and the Delhi HC’s order.

How the controversy reached Delhi HC and what was its judgment?

The Delhi HC on 19 September restrained Marijne and HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt Ltd from publishing any content on the medical condition of player Gurjit Kaur in his upcoming book.

A division bench of the High Court passed the interim order on a plea by Kaur challenging a single judge’s order of 15 September refusing to stay the release of the book.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Amit Sharma said it was of the view that the author of the book owes a “duty of care” to Kaur, who was in his charge as an international hockey player, at all relevant times. The bench said the assertion that Kaur’s teammates were privy to her medical condition also does not come to the aid of the publisher as prime facie they would be also bound by the code of conduct which evidently precludes them from disclosing or divulging the said information to third parties.

“In view of the foregoing, the publishers as well as the author arrayed as respondents 1 and 2 in the present appeal are restrained by an ad-interim injunction from publishing the subject book or any other matter incidental thereto or any other matter related to the subject book in so far as it relates to Gurjit Kaur’s medical condition,” the division bench said.

It observed the coach was bound by the code of conduct which clearly and unequivocally required him not to disclose information entrusted to him in confidence, inter alia, for personal gain or benefit or to damage the reputation of any person.

In the book, Kaur submitted, the author proposes to divulge certain confidential information about her medical condition in gross violation of the code of confidentiality by which the author was bound as the coach of the Indian hockey team. She said her medical condition came to the knowledge of her coach during the period of his engagement with the team.

What was the controversy surrounding Manpreet Singh?

In an explosive revelation, Marijne in his book has written that Manpreet asked a player “to stop playing  so well” to allow his friend(s) to get in the team.

In the excerpt from the book that was published in The Indian Express, Marijne wrote: “I don’t know if Manpreet had said so as a joke, but it made me so furious.”

How did Hockey India react?

The men’s and women’s teams issued a joint statement, stating that the former coach levelled the allegation against Manpreet to publicise his book.

“We have come together to state our deep disappointment in his (Marijne’s) exploitation of our personal information and false accusations. He has used his time of coaching us for commercial gain to sell his book at the cost of our reputations.

“This is a complete breach of trust and his duty of care as a coach. It also leads to all Indian athletes like us to feel vulnerable in such situations,” the players said in the joint statement.

“We are in the process of pursuing legal remedies against Mr. Sjoerd Marijne and the publishers of the book in question, Harper Collins.”

Both teams said if such an incident had indeed taken place, Marijne should have reported the matter to either Hockey India or Sports Authority of India, which he didn’t.

“We would like to collectively question Mr Sjoerd Marijne, that if any of the claimed incidence took place under his watch there should be record of an allegation filed to Hockey India or the Sports Authority of India at the time.

“On checking with the authorities, we have found no such record of complaint,” the statement read.

Marijne coached the Indian men’s hockey team for nine months before he was ousted following a dismal show at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast. He later took charge of the women’s team and guided them to a historic fourth-place finish at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

With inputs from agencies

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