Less than three weeks go for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022, and the Blue Tigresses have become stronger, faster, and hungrier for success, ahead of the continental showpiece tournament that will be held in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Pune from January 20 onwards.
It’s a hectic schedule for the Indian Women’s Team who are currently in a preparatory camp in Kochi, with strength and conditioning sessions in the morning, and on-pitch training sessions in the evening. The arrival of the strength and conditioning coach – Jane Törnqvist – has made a great deal of difference to the team, however, in a very short time.
“I think the players have started to understand the importance of strength and conditioning, once they started seeing the results on the pitch,” said Jane Törnqvist to the-aiff.com. “In two months, they feel the difference on the field – they are stronger, faster, and more agile.”
“The most important thing is that they have started to get to know their own bodies,” she continued. “Your body is a tool, and you need to take good care of it in order to perform.”
Head coach, Thomas Dennerby, who has brought Jane into the Blue Tigresses’ set-up, has known the former Swedish International for a long time, having coached her over the years at Hammarby IF, Djurgardens IF and the Swedish National Team. The 62-year-old highlighted the importance of conditioning the players to enhance their performance.
“There are a lot of different factors in football, but it’s very important that most footballers these days are professional, so they have the time to work on their strength and conditioning and rehab, and also get rest when they need to,” he said. “Once you do these, you get the time to prepare yourself both physically and mentally to prepare for the big occasions, and that’s why we see players having longer careers these days too.”
Having trained under strength and conditioning coach Jane Törnqvist, the Blue Tigresses themselves have noticed a lot of changes in themselves. Goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan believes that the morning sessions in the gym with Jane have helped her become a lot more agile on the pitch.
“Ever since Jane has joined, it’s made a huge difference. As a goalkeeper, I can see the change in my movements on the pitch. I feel stronger, my jumps are higher, and my kicks are longer. It’s all about knowing which parts of your body to work on to gain the extra yard on the pitch, and she really brings in that knowledge,” said Chauhan. “And these things really matter in tournaments where you have back-to-back matches with little time for recovery.”
The 46-year-old strength and conditioning coach was herself a defender back in her earlier days, and having played under the coaching of Thomas Dennerby at both the club and the international level, having won Damallsvenskan (Swedish Women’s League) in back-to-back seasons at Djurgardens.
“Thomas is a very experienced coach, and has coached and played at a very high level. But he’s very down to earth and humble, and tries to meet the players at their level so that they can understand him too,” said Törnqvist.
“I played under him for the first time at Hammarby when I was barely 20-years-old. But it was later at Djurgardens, where he really made the whole team play together. We did not have any big names, but we still managed to win the Damallsvenskan in back-to-back seasons (2003 and 2004),” she said.
The 46-year-old, who was first intrigued by strength and conditioning while recovering from a ligament injury that she had suffered, has now gone on to make a career out of it. While coming to India to impart her knowledge is not something that she would have had in her mind, Jane Törnqvist took up the offer after a word with Dennerby.
“I never thought I’d come half-way across the world to coach a team, so when Thomas called and asked, it was a bit of a shock. But it’s not much of a difference for me in terms of work. I basically do the same thing that I was doing back in Sweden – working with footballers,” she averred.
Having been in India for a little over two months now, Jane is someone who is slowly embracing the culture and customs in more ways than one.
“I’ve been to India before, and I had always been intrigued by India because of my love for yoga. But since coming here, I have been introduced to more aspects of the culture. More recently, I have taken a great linking to dosas. I think they’re my favourite Indian food now,” she said.
(Soumo Ghosh / AIFF Media)