India’s FIH Hockey Pro League Matches vs Spain, Germany in Europe Postponed

India’s upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League away fixtures against Spain and Germany later this month have been postponed due to the international travel restrictions imposed in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases in the Asian country, the world body (FIH) informed on Tuesday. The Indian men’s hockey team was scheduled to play against Spain on May 15 and 16, followed by the two-leg tie in Germany on May 23 and 24.

“FIH, Hockey India as well as the Hockey National Associations of Germany, Spain and Great Britain since the matches initially planned in London on 8-9 May were also postponed – are currently looking at all potential options to rearrange these matches at a later date,” the International Hockey Federation (FIH) said in a statement.

“On behalf of the global hockey community, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) would like to express its support and strong sympathy to the Indian hockey community, as well as their families and friends. At this very hard time for India, a country so much linked to the history as well as the current development of hockey, our thoughts are with all Indian people,” it added.

Last month, India’s FIH Hockey Pro League matches against Great Britain, scheduled for May 8-9 in London, were postponed following the UK government’s decision to add India to the travel ‘red list’ due to the surging COVID-19 cases there. With India recording more than 3 lakh COVID-19 cases and 3,000 deaths daily for quite some time now, most of the foreign countries, including Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Singapore, New Zealand, UK etc, have suspended international flights from the country.

India is currently fourth in the FIH Pro League standings with 15 points from eight matches behind Netherlands, Germany and leaders Belgium.

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Covid-hit India May Not Send Team to Spain, Germany

Indian men's hockey team (Photo Credit: HI)

Indian men’s hockey team (Photo Credit: HI)

Indian men’s hockey team may not send for the FIH Hockey Pro League matches in Spain and Germany due to a spike in coronavirus in the country.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated:May 03, 2021, 21:31 IST

The Indian men’s hockey team participation in the upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League matches in Spain and Germany is doubtful due to a spike in coronavirus in the country, an official attached with the national team said on Monday.

“Since Germany has restricted travellers from India, as of now, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, it could be difficult to compete in the Hockey Pro League matches in Hamburg on May 22 and 23,” the official told IANS.

Last month, Great Britain had banned travellers from India due to a spike in Coronavirus cases. It forced the national men’s hockey team to cancel its tour to play FIH Hockey Pro League matches in London on May 8 and 9.

“To further help players polish their competitive skills, Hockey India was looking to send the team to Europe. The national squad was also supposed to compete in Spanish leg of FIH Hockey Pro League matches in Valencia on May 15 and 16. But that too looks doubtful now,” said the official.

Last month, the Indian team competed in the Argentina leg of FIH Hockey Pro League matches. The team played a series of practice matches against the 2016 Olympic champions on their home turf.

The core group of 33 players are currently training at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru.

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India to Open 2021-22 FIH Pro League Campaign against New Zealand on February 5

The Indian men’s hockey team will open its campaign in the third edition of FIH Pro League against New Zealand on February 5 next year as the world governing body released the schedule of the prestigious tournament.

India will also take on Australia and Spain in February as it plays five away matches that month before taking on Germany and Argentina at home.

After the match against the Black Sticks, India will take on Australia on February 12 and 13 before facing Spain (Feb 26 and 27). India will play against Germany (March 12, 13) and Argentina (March 19, 20) at home.

The next month, India will face England (April 2, 3) at home, followed by away games against Belgium (on June 11 and 12) and Netherlands (June 18 and 19) in a packed 2022 season.

“It (schedule) gives us an opportunity to plan our preparations well in advance. Though right now our focus is on doing well in Tokyo this July and peaking at the right time to succeed at the Olympic Games, we now know what needs to be done in the second half of the year,” said India skipper Manpreet Singh.”

“They (New Zealand and Australia) are always a very challenging team particularly at home and we are very excited about the prospects of starting our campaign against them,” he added.

India chief coach Graham Reid said his team looks forward to playing against the best teams in the world.

“We will begin our assault on the title with a trip to New Zealand and Australia in February 2022. These matches are always tough against tough competitors in what can be often very warm conditions during that time of the year,” Reid said.

The second season (2020-21) of the FIH Pro League is currently on with India scheduled to play against Spain and Germany later this month.

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India-Great Britain Matches Postponed Following UK Travel Ban

Indian men's hockey team (Photo Credit: HI)

Indian men’s hockey team (Photo Credit: HI)

FIH Hockey Pro League matches between India and Great Britain which were to be played in London on May 8-9 were postponed.

  • Last Updated:April 21, 2021, 12:52 IST

The FIH Hockey Pro League matches between India and Great Britain, scheduled for May 8-9 in London, were on Wednesday postponed following the UK government’s decision to add India to the travel ‘red list’.

“FIH, Hockey India and Great Britain Hockey are monitoring the evolution of the situation in the hope of rearranging these matches at a later date,” a FIH release said.

India will still travel to Europe in May to play the Pro League matches against Spain (May 15-16) and Germany (May 22-23) while Great Britain will host Germany (May 12-13), USA (Women, May 22-23) and Spain (Men, May 22-23).

Australia and New Zealand are continuing their efforts to find a date for the matches between them following the announcement of a trans-Tasman travel bubble this week.

The UK government added India to its COVID-19 travel ‘red list’ on Monday. From April 23 onwards, UK residents arriving from India will have to quarantine in a hotel for 11 nights.

Others from India will not be able to travel to the UK at all. India have recorded a total of 2,95,041 fresh infections in the last 24 hours while the active cases crossed the 21-lakh mark.

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Argentina Tour Gave Us Chance to Access Our Level Ahead of Tokyo Olympics: Graham Reid

The Indian men’s hockey team chief coach Graham Reid on Tuesday said the recent tour to Argentina has been extremely beneficial as it provided him an opportunity to access the level of his side with three months remaining for the Tokyo Olympics.

India beat Argentina in both their FIH Pro League fixtures and also registered victories in two out of the four practice matches against the reigning Olympic champions.

“These matches in Argentina were extremely important for us to access the level we are at with lesser than 100 days to go for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“We also managed to get a few practice sessions in Buenos Aires and we are really grateful to the CAH (Confederaci n Argentina de Hockey) for their hospitality,” said Reid after the hockey core group returned to the national camp here on Tuesday.

The postponed Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to begin on July 23.

After completing their mandatory quarantine, the 22-member squad will join the remaining 11 members of the core probable group who remained in SAI, Bengaluru while the Indian team toured Argentina.

“After all the necessary protocols after our arrival, we will continue with our training with specific focus on the areas we feel can improve basis our performance in Argentina,” Reid added.

The 33-member core probable group: PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak, Suraj Karkera, Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Manpreet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Jaskaran Singh, Rajkumar Pal, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Dipsan Tirkey, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Gursahibjit Singh and Gurjant Singh.

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Indian Men’s Hockey Team Beat Argentina 3-0

India’s men’s hockey team completed their second win in as many days in the FIH Pro League as Harmanpreet Singh (11th minute), Lalit Upadhyay (25th min) and Mandeep Singh’s (58th min) goals helped the visitors outclass the Olympic Champions 3-0 here in Buenos Aires on Monday.

Argentina got off to a great start, raiding the Indian circle in numbers. Krishan Bahadur Pathak, who was playing his 50th international match, made three brilliant saves in the first quarter to deny the hosts from taking the lead. Forwards Macio Casella and Martin Ferrerio’s efforts from close range were expertly pushed away by Pathak.

India gradually found their feet in the contest with Rajkumar Pal testing Argentina’s veteran goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi. In the 11th minute, Harmanpreet scored his third goal in two days, drilling a Penalty Corner away from Vivaldi’s left and into the corner of the net.

The second quarter saw the Indian defence having little trouble keeping the Argentinian attackers at bay. Argentina saw more of the ball and had more circle penetrations too –21 to India’s 19 — but created few meaningful chances. The visitors doubled their lead with a delightful field goal five minutes before the end of the first half. Vivaldi had initially saved Gurjant Singh’s shot after Lalit set him up with a determined run inside the Argentinian circle. Lalit, though, was quick to pounce on the rebound to give India a 2-0 lead.

In the third quarter, India’s high-intensity pressing continued to force Argentina into making mistakes. They dominated possession and swarmed all the over the Argentinian defence by regularly finding space behind the full backs. India bagged their third goal two minutes before full time after Shamsher Singh found Mandeep, who tucked the ball into the net despite losing his balance. Pathak deservedly earned a clean sheet while Rajkumar, Shamsher and Hardik Singh put in excellent displays for their side.

“We were a lit bit asleep in the first quarter. We woke up in the second quarter. Controlling possession made the difference,” chief coach Graham Reid reflected on India’s superb turnaround in the game. The win pushed India up to fourth place (after eight games) in the FIH Pro League.

India will play two more friendly matches against Argentina on April 13 & 14 in Bueno Aires, before they resume their FIH Pro League matches against Great Britain on May 8 and 9 in London.

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Eye on Tokyo Olympics, Defender Varun Kumar Wants to Excel in FIH Hockey Pro League

India hockey team defender Varun Kumar will be high on confidence when the Manpreet Singh-led side takes on Olympic champions Argentina in the FIH Hockey Pro League in Buenos Aires on April 11 and 12.

One of the key players in the team that won the junior hockey World Cup in Lucknow in 2016, Varun quickly emerged as a promising defender and was part of the bronze-winning team at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

But a series of injury setbacks to the 25-year-old hailing from Punjab saw him sidelined and his last international outing was in October 2019 during India’s tour of Belgium.

The last one-and-a-half years have been a nightmare for the defender as he suffered a shoulder injury, contracted Covid-19 and also suffered a hamstring injury while on a comeback trail. But with the clock ticking towards the Tokyo Olympics, Varun got a call from India’s chief coach Graham Reid for the Argentina tour and he is now “thrilled to be wearing the India jersey again”.

“I am extremely happy to make a comeback after one year and five months…It took me five-six months to recover from my shoulder injury and then I contracted Covid-19 as well. In the meanwhile, I also suffered a hamstring injury. My world had collapsed at that point,” said the defender detailing his struggles over the last year-and-a-half years.

Now fit and raring to go, Varun hopes to be a part of the two practice matches, on April 6 and 7, against the home team before the bigger test, the FIH Hockey Pro League matches, on April 11 and 12.

Despite the setbacks, Varun kept reminding himself that his “chance to shine” will come soon.

“The key was to stay motivated and be patient for opportunities to come your way,” said Varun.

“It wasn’t easy for me. Being out for a long period would sometimes take a toll on me mentally and my mind would begin to wander. I slowly began to accept that such injuries, and the subsequent layoff periods, are a part and parcel of a player’s life,” he added.

“My coaches and the senior players in the side such as Manpreet Singh, PR Sreejesh and Rupinder Pal Singh guided me a lot. They are big players who have seen many highs and lows in their careers. They told me to work hard on regaining my fitness and giving my 100 per cent once the opportunity comes along. Their advice helped me immensely,” Varun added.

A commanding performance in Buenos Aires will most likely cement Varun’s place in the squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

“Yes, that is my target — to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics. Even though I’ve been out of competitive action for a while, I can get into the rhythm of playing very soon. Playing for your country is such a big honour and wearing the India jersey just gives you confidence to achieve great things for your country. The opportunity to play in the Olympics is also an added boost; it’s a dream for any player. So I am keen to make an impact for my team whenever I get to play,” said Varun.

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India Men’s Team announced for Pro League Matches against Argentina

Hockey India on Tuesday announced a 22-member Indian men’s hockey team who will take on Olympic Champions Argentina in the FIH Hockey Pro League matches on April 11 and 12 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Indian Team will also play two practice matches against the home team on April 6 and 7. The Pro League tie itself will be followed by two more practice matches on April 13 and 14 as part of their preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games this July.

India’s tour of Argentina will see the return of experienced midfielder and captain Manpreet Singh who had opted out of the recent Europe tour due to personal reasons. Experienced dragflick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh returns as well as Varun Kumar, who had missed out the previous tour as he was recovering from an injury.

The team also includes Jaskaran Singh, Sumit and Shilanand Lakra who will be playing their first international match in over a year. Meanwhile experienced players Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Simranjeet Singh who were part of the Europe Tour have been rested.

“Once again, we are excited about being able to travel overseas for international competition. We are taking a 22-man squad attempting to provide a good balance between giving experience to those players who need it and opportunities for players to perform on the international stage in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics,” said chief coach Graham Reid.

“We will be playing four practice games against Argentina and two all-important FIH Hockey Pro League matches. To play the Olympic Champions is always an honour and a privilege in our sport and especially challenging to play them in their own country. Argentina play a different style of game to the teams we played in Europe, and we will be using this tour as a great opportunity to continue our growth and development before Tokyo. These games will provide opportunities to hone our skills and tactics in a period where all teams have been starved of international competition,” said Reid.

The team will leave for Buenos Aires on March 31 for the 16-day tour from Bengaluru following the mandatory RT-PCR tests within 72 hours prior to their departure.

Indian squad:

PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Amit Rohidas, Gurinder Singh, Harmanpreet Singh (vice captain), Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Jaskaran Singh, Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh (captain), Vivek Sagar Prasad, Raj Kumar Pal, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Shamsher Singh, Gurjant Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Shilanand Lakra

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Pro League Perfect Test for India ahead of Tokyo Olympics: PR Sreejesh

India’s veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh feels the upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League matches will be a perfect test for the team ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“We are hopeful the FIH Hockey Pro League matches are held as per schedule this year, that way we get good matches against strong teams ahead of Tokyo Olympics in July. These matches will be a perfect test for us as players as well as a team and I am sure the final team selection for the Olympics will depend on how well we do in these matches,” said Sreejesh.

On January 18 last year, the Indian team had made a sensational debut at the FIH Hockey Pro League with a 5-2 win against the Netherlands. Though in the next game, the Dutch bounced back to hold India 3-3 in regulation time, Sreejesh’s heroics in the shootout ensured India began the coveted League with back-to-back wins. The final score was 3-1 in India’s favour.

“It was one of the most memorable matches. I feel all of 2019, our true potential was not tested and we longed to play top teams like Netherlands, Australia and Belgium. FIH Hockey Pro League gave us that opportunity and we wanted to make it count,” said Sreejesh.

India came up with impressive performances against the World Champions Belgium and Australia too, winning a match each and losing a game by a close margin.

“It was a great learning experience and each of us worked on bringing out our individual best and execute our roles to perfection. The FIH Hockey Pro League was the perfect stepping stone for the Olympics,” he added.

In the next leg of Pro League matches, India are scheduled to play against Argentina in April, Great Britain, Spain and Germany in May. The team will also compete against New Zealand at home in May.

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