In the lead up to the International Women’s Day 2024, a year that marks the 100 years of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), we are speaking with women in hockey, who have made major contributions towards the growth of the sport over the past few decades. 

In today’s story, we feature Marijke Fleuren, former member of the FIH Executive Board, member of the IOC Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Commission and Honourary Life President of EuroHockey.


Marijke's introduction to hockey was a familial affair, with both parents playing the sport. As a child, she spent her weekends at the hockey club, playing with her siblings while her parents competed. Falling in love with the game, Marijke eventually joined the first women’s team at AHC Arnhem (Netherlands) at the age of 17, turning her childhood dream into reality.

Reflecting on her own journey, Marijke emphasises the sense of family hockey provided. From teammates to colleagues in committees and boards, she found companionship and support: “Travelling globally, I have experienced the warmth and camaraderie within the hockey community, which is like a ‘second family’ for me.”

As a player and administrator, Marijke has seen the evolution of hockey over the past few decades and highlights two significant changes that revolutionised the sport - the introduction of artificial pitches, altering the dynamics of speed and skills, and the removal of the offside rule alongside the introduction of interchange and self-pass rules. She believes these changes transformed the game, emphasising the importance of fitness and strategy.

Marijke also highlighted the remarkable changes in gender equality within hockey, especially over the last 15 years. The obligation to have an equal representation of men and women on the FIH Executive Board marked a pivotal moment. The EquallyAmazing logo and advocacy from women in the FIH Board further propelled the cause. 

She also credits the broader shift in gender equality in the world of sports, spearheaded by IOC President Thomas Bach:“For Thomas Bach it was logical that the sport be represented by 50% men and 50% women. In his opinion, it would be a waste to ignore 50% of your potential by using only men as not just athletes but as board members, coaches, directors and umpires.”

Speaking about further changes that she would still like to see in the world of sport and hockey, that would go further in reducing gender disparity, Marijke advocates for the HeForShe movement and supports the Stressing the importance of men as advocates for women, she envisions a joint platform where both genders contribute equally. Her belief is that a collaborative approach will lead to a more balanced and successful society.

On a personal note, Marijke spoke of the profound impact hockey has had on her life: “A husband, three kids and their partners and 9 beautiful grandkids. They all love and play or have played hockey. We share the joy of the game.”

Last August, as she stepped down as EuroHockey President, she was overwhelmed by the warmth and gratitude she received from the global hockey community.

Asked about what advice she would give to the next generation of female players and administrators, Marijke encouraged them to start making a difference right away, regardless of where they are and how big an impact they can make in the moment. For her, what is important is to step up and be unstoppable: “Even the smallest ripple in the water can end in a big wave. And last thing, whatever happens: Stay at the table. Don’t give up!”