FIH knocks on India’s doors to give life to Pro League
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) desperately wants India in the Pro League, set to be introduced in 2019. India had previously refused to play because playing Pakistan, especially on a home-and-away format, was a major issue.other sports Updated: Dec 03, 2017 20:24 IST
No one wants to see a world level hockey event without a game between traditional rivals India and Pakistan. That’s probably the reason why International Hockey Federation (FIH) desperately wants India in the Pro League, set to be introduced in 2019.
India have expressed their inability to participate in the event.Projected as the most prestigious hockey event after Olympics and World Cup, the Pro League will be played on a home-and-away basis.
It will feature nine countries each in men’s and women’s sections, with the top four teams assured of Olympic berth for the 2020 Games.
India were initially part of the tournament set to be played between January and July 2019 but Hockey India (HI) later withdrew saying that they don’t see the tournament helping its women’s team qualify for the Olympics or World Cup.
It is, however, believed that playing Pakistan, especially on a home-and-away format, was also an issue.
Jason McCracken, CEO of the FIH, said that hockey is ‘stronger’ when India is around. “The FIH would be delighted to have India as part of the Pro League. Hockey is strong when India is there,” McCracken told Hindustan Times. “We are always talking to Hockey India. The doors are always open.”
After HI announced its withdrawal, the FIH named Spain and Belgium as replacements in the men’s and women’s competitions.
International hockey is going through a transition phase and the next two years could be important for the growth of the sport.
“We want hockey to be a ‘superstar sport’ like other major sports in the world. Next year is important because it is a transition year. We have Indoor World Cup, two World Cups (women’s in London and men’s here), two Champions Trophy events and we have the youth Olympic Games in Argentina,” he said.
The Pro League will have 144 games. “We think it’s going to be a fantastic success because all the 144 games will be a home match for one or the other team. When we see India play, we see a packed stadium and that’s what we want to see.”