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News 05 April 2014

All the news for Saturday 5 April 2014

Black Sticks open Festival in winning style

Anita Punt celebrates her 150th cap in style by scoring the opening goal in the Black Sticks 3-1 victory. Photo: www.photosport.co.nz

The Black Sticks Women have started their tournament in winning style at the Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey with a 3-1 win over Korea.

The Kiwis led from start to finish in an impressive display of hockey with goals from Anita Punt, Petrea Webster and Olivia Merry.

Head coach Mark Hager said it was pleasing to take a win in their first game at the tournament.

“Korea were a good challenge for us and I thought we played well for most of the game today,” Hager said.

“We fell off a little bit in the second half so we need to keep working on our consistency and staying focussed for the full 70 minutes."

In her 150th test, Anita Punt opened the scoring for New Zealand midway through the first half before Webster tapped in a deflection just minutes later to give her side a 2-0 lead.

Goalkeeper Sally Rutherford was outstanding in the first half, making several terrific saves to deny Korea from scoring.

It was still all going the Black Sticks’ way in the second half with Merry converting off a free hit from the top of the circle.

Korea scored a consolation goal but couldn’t mount any further comeback as time wound down.

The Black Sticks are back in action against China at 4pm tomorrow, with the game streamed live at www.hockeynz.co.nz

In earlier games at the tournament today, China beat Japan 2-0 while Argentina dominated Australia 3-0.

China drew first blood finding the back of the net with a goal to Xiaoxue Zhang in the ninth minute of play. China cemented their lead in the second half with a strike from Yang Peng in the 42nd minute.

Luciana Aymar put Argentina on the scoreboard in the 17th minute of play, followed by Gisele Juarez just before halftime. Carla Rebecchi rounded out the scoreboard in an emphatic performance for Argentina.

CLICK HERE to watch a replay of the Black Sticks vs Korea

CLICK HERE for more on the Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey

BLACK STICKS 3: (Anita Punt, Petrea Webster, Olivia Merry)
KOREA 1: (Hyo Ju An)
Halftime: Black Sticks 2-0

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Roos lose, Las Leonas strong

Argentina win 3-0 over Hockeyroos at Hawke’s Bay Festival

The Hockeyroos commenced their New Zealand campaign against Argentina at the opening of the Hawke’s Bay Festival. Marching into their first match of the tournament against world number two, Argentina suffering a 3-0 defeat.

After a fast paced first half both teams held strong defensive structures as well as fighting for key possession of the ball. Argentina applied endless amounts of pressure onto the Hockeyroos which saw them break the ice in the 16th minute mark sliding the ball through Australian goalkeeper Ashlee Wells legs setting themselves up with a 1-0 lead.

30 minutes into the first half Argentina’s striker Gisele Juarez hit the back of the goals off a field goal taking them to a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Argentina’s Carla Rebecchi flicked a powerful ball into the net at the 40th minute mark allowing Argentina breathing space leading 3-0 with 30 minutes remaining on the clock.

Hockeyroos captain Madonna Blyth kept the squad composed working a penalty corner three minutes into the second half with opponents quickly snapping the ball. The Hockeyroos started to apply good pressure while creating opportunities for themselves as they found their feet in the second half however, time was not on their side with Argentina ending the 70 minute game with a 3-0 win.

Speaking after the match Hockeyroos head coach Adam Commens said, “Today’s match highlighted the importance of getting the detail right. We started at a low intensity level in which we need to learn to start at high intensity as well as carrying strong skill sets. Today’s penalty corners were untidy and we didn’t execute our skills like we have been previously. There were numerous chances for us to score however, it came down to our structure and their strong defence.

“Argentina are clearly one of the best teams in the world to play against, with the difference visible today. If we are slightly off game Argentina will pick us up on it especially in their attacking circle.”

“Their goalkeeper Belen Succi played very well today, their defence were brave and held good structure throughout the match. We need to be mindful that this is the standard of International hockey if we want to win gold medals.”

Discussing the Hockeyroos second match on Sunday against Japan after facing them a week ago with a 100% win record in their five series in Kalgoorlie and Perth Commens added,

“Tomorrow will be a challenge coming into the Japan match. They will be disappointed after losing to China today and come into tomorrow’s match facing us fired up”

“We will need to be sharper and execute our skills and structure better if we want to walk away from tomorrow’s game with a positive result.”

After suffering an injury scare Georgie Parker will play no part in the tournament. Her place will be taken by Mathilda Carmichael.

The Hockeyroos meet Japan in their second match of the series Sunday morning at 10:00am AEST / 8:00am AWST.

Six Nations Tournament
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand


Luciana Aymar 17 (FG)
Gisele Juarez 30 (FG)
Carla Rebecchi 40 (FG)

* Note: Jodie Kenny (recently married) is recorded under her maiden name of Schulz and Kirstin Dwyer under her maiden name of Johnson as FIH regulations for an official Test match state that an athlete must play under the name on their passport.

Hockeyroos squad v Japan
Athlete (Hometown, State) Caps/Goals

Madonna Blyth (Brisbane, QLD) 272/65
Edwina Bone (Evatt, ACT) 31/1
Kirstin Johnson* (now married, Kirstin Dwyer) (Mackay, QLD) 39/2
Casey Eastham (South Coast, NSW) 194/44
Jodie Schulz* (now married, Jodie Kenny) (Wamuran, QLD) 97/50
Karri McMahon (Berri, SA) 30/4
Georgia Nanscawen (Melbourne, VIC) 115/21
Ashleigh Nelson (Wagin, WA) 139/61
Emily Smith (Crookwell, NSW) 78/31
Ashlee Wells (Morwell, VIC) 28/0
Kellie White (Crookwell, NSW) 67/22

Used Substitute
Jane Claxton (Adelaide, SA) 32/3
Anna Flanagan (Canberra, ACT) 115/20
Kate Jenner (Tamowrth, NSW) 86/1
Brooke Peris (Darwin, NT) 24/6
Jayde Taylor (Bunbury, WA) 85/1

Not Used
Mathilda Carmichael (Willoughby, NSW) 10/0
Rachael Lynch (Warrandyte, VIC) 99/0

Hockeyroos Fixtures, Hawkes Bay Festival
Sunday 6 April - Hockeyroos v Japan - 10:00 AEST / 08:00 AWST / 12:00 local time
Tuesday 8 April - Hockeyroos v China - 15:00 AEST / 13:00 AWST / 17:00 local time
Thursday 10 April - Hockeyroos v Korea - 15:00 AEST / 13:00 AWST / 17:00 local time
Saturday 12 April - Hockeyroos v New Zealand - 13:30 AEST / 11:30 AWST / 15:30 local time
Sunday 13 April - Hockeyroos v TBC

Hockey Australia media release

Sticks start strongly at Six Nations

By Daniel Richardson in Hastings

Anita Punt celebrated her 150th test for the Black Sticks by opening the scoring following a penalty corner. Photo / Getty

New Zealand have made a promising start to the Six Nations women's hockey tournament in Hastings with a 3-1 victory over Korea.

Playing in bright and sunny conditions in Hawkes Bay this evening, the Black Sticks, who took to the turf in their white, alternate kit, were dangerous on the counter-attack throughout the game.

After absorbing plenty of early pressure, New Zealand rebounded as Anita Punt, celebrating her 150th test, got them on the scoreboard following a penalty corner.

That wasn't her only trick during the first spell though as she delivered an accurate pass for Petrea Webster to convert New Zealand's second.

Webster's goal was crucial for the home side, who had spurned a handful of opportunities during the opening stanza as they lacked accuracy in the circle, while Kayla Whitelock (nee Sharland) was unlucky as she hit the crossbar with a thunderbolt shot.

With a two-goal advantage at the split, the Black Sticks added to their lead via youngster Olivia Merry mid-way through the second spell.

Korea, who enjoyed a heavy dose of penalty corners throughout the game, eventually pulled one back through Hyo Ju An in the second half.

Prior to that, New Zealand goalkeeper Sally Rutherford had looked nearly unbreakable and pulled off a couple of useful saves during the first frame, which helped the Black Sticks maintain their lead.

New Zealand, ranked fifth in the world to Korea's eighth, were able to close out the game in comfortable fashion, which should give them a boost of confidence as they eye tomorrow's outing against China.

The Six Nations tournament is the flagship product of the inaugural Hawkes Bay Festival of Hockey, which also features games between schools, masters and other representative teams during the two-week extravaganza.

In earlier results today, China beat Japan 2-0, while Argentina cruised past Australia 3-0.

Black Sticks 3 (Anita Punt, Petrea Webster, Olivia Merry)
Korea 1 (Hyo Ju An)
HT: 2-0

The New Zealand Herald

Punt hoping to mark milestone in style

Black Sticks Anita Punt. Photo / Christine Cornege

Anita Punt hopes her 150th game for the Black Sticks goes better than her first.

Barring any late struggles with her knee, the 26-year-old was due to mark the milestone against Korea in Hastings this afternoon in New Zealand's first game of the Six Nations tournament which is part of the inaugural Hawkes Bay Festival of Hockey.

Punt made her debut against China in 2009 but she said it wasn't a terribly memorable occasion aside from the fact it was her first appearance.

"I think I touched the ball about three times and just ran," she laughed. "I don't think I actually did anything."

"I'll be going out to try and play the game [today] as I normally do and do as well as I can and I'll be trying to forget what game it is. But definitely, I'm pretty confident I should play better than what I did in my first game."

The Festival of Hockey is a Hawkes Bay-wide event that includes schools, masters and other representative teams, while a women's Six Nations tournament featuring New Zealand, Australia, Korea, China, Argentina and Japan will be the feature at the Unison Hockey Stadium in Hastings.

The Black Sticks warmed up for the event with a two-test series against China in Taupo earlier this week where they won the first game but drew the second.

Punt missed the first outing against China due to a sore knee but expected to play without concern today.

The Black Sticks have a heavy schedule in front of them with the World Cup in Holland in May-June, while the Commonwealth Games are on the horizon in Glasgow the following month.

There's also the Champions Trophy in Argentina in November-December.

"It's just what we do," Punt said. "You've just got to condition right and prepare right and hopefully you come through with no injuries and hopefully make the tournaments as well."

The New Zealand Herald

Anita Punt to play 150th Black Sticks game


HOCKEY VETERAN: Anita Punt is about to play her 150th match for the Black Sticks. JOHN COWPLAND/ Alphapix

Three Black Sticks will reach significant milestones during the Festival of Hockey series, which starts in Hastings today.

Wellington wing Anita Punt plays her 150th game against Korea this afternoon, Krystal Forgesson hits 200 games against China tomorrow and next Saturday Emily Naylor should surpass Suzie Muirhead as New Zealand's most capped player.

Naylor enters the six-team tournament with 234 caps and provided she plays every game will inch past Muirhead's mark of 238 in the final robin match against Australia.

The Festival of Hockey comprises six teams, all ranked in the top 10 in the world. Argentina (2) and Australia (4) are favoured to meet in the final but any of New Zealand (5), China (7), Korea (8) and Japan (9) could upset the applecart.

Black Sticks coach Mark Hager estimates his charges are at 85 per cent for this tournament but says the expectation is that they make the final at the Unison Hockey Stadium in Hastings.

Over the past week the Black Sticks have played warmup games against Korea, China and Japan where the pattern was for them to score plenty of goals but leaked too many for Hager's liking.

It is a big year for the Black Sticks, with a World Cup, a Commonwealth Games and a Champions Trophy on the calendar.

Hager has 18 players in Hawke's Bay and they would appear to have the inside running for the World Cup. Only Katie Glynn is absent.

Hager said Kayla Whitelock (nee Sharland) looked to be running into top form in a short game against Japan on Thursday, which is an encouraging sign for the home side.

"All the games will be hard if you are not playing close to your best game," Hager said.

"Our expectation is to make the final. If you look at the world rankings Australia and Argentina are the favourites and we are knocking on the door."


Investec South Africa women’s hockey team named for Champions Challenge

Marsha Cox in action for the Investec SA hockey team during the Hartleyvale Summer Series in Cape Town in February. Photo: GAVIN WITHERS

The names of the players in the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team for the Champions Challenge tournament in Glasgow were released by the SA Hockey Association Friday.

The Champions Challenge takes place at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre from April 27 to May 4.

Prior to the Investec SA team’s arrival in Glasgow, they will be training at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre in England and are due to play in matches against England.

The Investec SA team field a number of hugely experienced players, none more so than Marsha Cox.

Jade Mayne was not considered due to injury.

Anelle van Deventer, Sanani Mangisa, Quanita Bobbs, Lisa Deetlefs, Lenise Marais, Marcelle Manson, Shelly Russell, Tarryn Bright, Marsha Cox, Bernie Coston, Kathleen Taylor, Nicolene Terblanche, Illse Davids, Sulette Damons, Celia Evans, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lilian du Plessis, Kelly Madsen. Non-travelling reserves: Candice Manuel, Tanya Britz, Phume Mbande.

SA Hockey Association media release

Gurbaj returns, three new faces in team

Harpreet Kaur Lamba

Senior midfielder Gurbaj Singh returned to the India squad after a gap of one-and-a-half years, while defender Sandeep Singh could not find a place in the 21-member hockey team named here on Friday, for the European tour beginning April 11.

India enter a crucial year with the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games lined up over the next six months. The European tour is the first step of intense preparations and will provide national coach Terry Walsh an ideal opportunity to test his squad ahead of the World Cup, and decide on the final 18 for the big events.

A lot of focus is on the youth, with Devindar Walmiki (midfielder), Lalit Upadhyay (forward) and Gurvinder Singh (defender) being handed senior India caps for the first time.

While Gurvinder is a product of the Surjit Singh Academy in Jalandhar, Walmiki and Upadhyay have been part of the junior team for the last two years.

Said Gurbaj, "It is an opportunity and responsibility for me. I am happy to be included in the team, but my responsibility begins from here. There are a lot of tournaments this year and all of us need to work very hard towards the collective goal. Personally, I need to do well and contribute to the team's success."

Forward Danish Mujtaba returns after a long injury lay-off, while young Harjot Singh has been picked along with the experienced P.R. Sreejesh for goalkeeping duties.

Defender and drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh has been named vice-captain ahead of full-back V.R. Raghunath. Sardar Singh will lead the squad.

Devindar, who will play alongside elder brother Yuvraj in the senior squad, was elated at the opportunity. "This is just my second camp with the senior team and I am happy that I will get to play along with the seniors. There is a lot to learn and improve. I am looking ahead to the experience."

India play five tests on the tour - two against Holland, one against Belgium and two against local clubs.

Team: Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Harjot Singh; Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Rupinderpal Singh (vice-captain), V.R. Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh, Gurbaj Singh; Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), S.K. Uthappa, Dharamvir Singh, Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Devindar Walmiki; Forwards: S.V Sunil, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki, Lalit Upadhyay.

The Asian Age

Gurbaj returns after two years; Sandeep ignored again

Experienced midfielder Gurbaj Singh returned to the national hockey team on Friday after almost two years while drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continued to be ignored as the selectors named a 21-member squad for a 10-day preparatory tour of the Netherlands from April 9 to 19.

Gurbaj had been out of favour since he last donned India colours at the London Olympics in 2012 but fought his way back with an impressive performance at this year’s Hockey India League. The right-half was also instrumental in helping Delhi Waveriders win the title.

“He is an outstanding player, hats off to how much work he has done in his own environment outside the national camp,” coach Terry Walsh had said during practice.

“The coach has reposed faith in me, and my target now is to make sure I contribute as much as I can to the team,” Gurbaj said on his return to the side.

“Being in and out of the team should not affect the effort being put into improving your game. The only thing that kept me going in these two years was self-belief and the fact that I love hockey,” Gurbaj added.

Sandeep, however, failed to impress the selectors and the team management, which believed he needed more time to adjust to the team’s speed and level of training.

Sandeep, top-scorer at the HIL, also out since the 2012 Olympics, made a brief return to the side for the Hockey World League Round 3 last year before being dumped again.

Others making a comeback to the national side include talented Danish Mujtaba, down for a year with a shin injury, and forward Yuvraj Walmiki. Strikers Lalit Upadhyay and Devinder Walmiki would make their senior India debut along with defender Gurinder Singh.

Meanwhile, young strikers Mandeep Singh and Gurwinder Singh Chandi are out with injuries while Affan Yousuf has been ignored. The team would play five games — two each against the Dutch national side and club sides and one against Belgium — at The Hague on the build-up tour ahead of the World Cup (May 31-June 15).

The team:

Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Harjot Singh; Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh; Gurbaj Singh; Midfielders: Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Dharamvir Singh, Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Danish Mujtaba, Devinder Walmiki; Forwards: S.V. Sunil, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki, Lalit Upadhyay.

The Hindu

Brothers Walmiki make it to Europe tour

s2h Team

Talented Mumbai duo and brothers Yuvraj and Devinder make it to the Indian senior national team for the forthcoming Europe tour

Midfielder Sardar Singh to lead the squad while defender Rupinder Pal Singh announced as Vice-Captain

India will play FIVE build up games in the Europe Tour including two against Netherlands, one against Belgium and two against Dutch National Clubs

The five matches will be played at The Hague, Netherlands from 9-19 April 2014, the venue of this year's World Cup.

The team
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh and HarjotSingh

Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh (Vice-Captain), 5. V R Raghunath, 6. Kothajit Singh, 7. Gurinder Singh, 8. Gurbaj Singh.

Midfielders: Sardar Singh (Captain) 10. S K Uthappa, 11. Dharamvir Singh, 12. Manpreet Singh, 13. Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, 14. Danish Mujtaba, 15. Devindar Walmiki,

Forwards: 16. S V Sunil, 17. Nikkin Thimmaiah, 18. Akashdeep Singh, 19. Ramandeep Singh, 20. Yuvraj Walmiki, 21. Lalit Upadhyay,

Schedule: 11 April 2014 Vs Leiden (Dutch National Club)
14 April 2014 Vs HGC (Dutch National Club)
15 April 2014 Vs Belgium
17 April 2014 Vs The Netherlands
19 April 2014 Vs The Netherlands
The camp of senior men team is currently underway at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, New Delhi which started from 9 March 2014 and will continue till their departure on 9 April 2014.


'My time will come'

Y. B. Sarangi


Diwakar Ram, who impressed everyone with his consistent showing at the junior level and promptly graduated to the senior National hockey team, has been out of favour owing to injuries and the tussle between Hockey India (HI) and the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF). In the National Championship in Lucknow recently, the wiry drag-flicker, playing for his home state Uttar Pradesh, looked much more polished and confident on the pitch. He was one of the top goal-scorers and the ‘Best Defender’ of the championship.

The 24-year-old from Gorakhpur spoke to Sportstar about his time away from the National team and his future in the game.

Question: You have been out of the Indian team for some time now...

Answer: My last tour was the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (Malaysia) in 2011 and I was part of the National camp in October-November that year. Then I was injured and never made a comeback to the team.

Do you think the tussle between HI and the IHF affected you? How did you motivate yourself to keep playing?

Yes, that affected my prospects in a big way. The World Series Hockey (WSH) was a factor. I focused on playing (for my employer ONGC) in various tournaments and kept myself motivated. There was no point blaming anyone. I had only one option — to prove my worth and make a comeback to the camp.

There are some top drag-flickers in the Indian camp now. So, how do you rate your chances?

The competition has become tougher. If I get a chance to be part of the camp, then I will get an idea of how tough it is. Now, V. R. Raghunath, Sandeep Singh, Rupinderpal Singh and Gurjinder Singh are already in the camp. So, it will be really tough.

How did you get back your touch?

I have been training and playing in different tournaments and doing well in most of them. Regular training is the main reason why I am in form. In this tournament (National Championship), I played really well.

Now you are a far better defender who can play as a linkman, one who goes up the field to feed the attackers. How did this happen?

Most drag-flickers face the criticism that they are good only in drag-flicks and not in field-play. I wanted to change that notion and worked seriously on my field-play. It is good to hear (from people) that ‘this player scores a few goals and hardly gives away any.’

Having played all these years, do you still seek tips from anybody?

Whenever I face any problem, I take tips from Jugraj Singh, the former India drag-flicker. He always helps me out.

Since the year is packed with so many important events, do you think you will get a chance to be in the National team again?

My aim is to get into the (Indian) camp and then eye a spot in the team. I am confident my time will come again.

Since you have not played in the Hockey India League (HIL) so far, are you hopeful of being part of the league in its third edition?

Yes. My first target is to make it into the National camp and then I am hopeful of playing in the HIL next season.


Punjab will be the team to beat

To say that the quality of the group matches in the Hockey India fourth junior National men’s championship was below par, would be stating the obvious. From the beginning, it was evident which teams would make it to the knockout (semifinals), and the top teams were hardly made to sweat. 

In the semifinals to be held here on Saturday, between Punjab and Haryana and SAI and Odisha, there is no doubt that Punjab will be the overwhelming favourite to bag the title.

Even the rivals concede that Punjab will be the team to beat for it looks relatively well-balanced in defence, attack and in penalty corner conversions.

“Punjab is the best,” admitted SAI coach Y.S. Chauhan. N.K. Gautam, Haryana’s coach, felt Punjab is beatable as its defence has not been tested adequately. “We would like to exploit that,” he said.

Room for improvement

Punjab’s coach Avtar Singh isn’t worried since he knows that his team is far better. Harjeet Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Parvinder Singh, Varun Kumar have all played in the Hockey India League, and it has shown in the way the team has competed thus far. Avtar, though, felt that his players had to improve on penalty corner conversions. 

SAI, too, has impressed, posting huge victories over Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Against Bhopal in its last pool match, SAI looked ordinary. Playing what he calls total hockey, SAI coach Y.S. Chauhan, said he would definitely spring a surprise on Odisha.

“We have good players like captain Sandeep Kumar and drag-flicker Navdeep Singh,” he said.

Playing with four forwards, Orissa has shown the hunger to score goals, but coach Pradeep Kumar said he is not happy with his forwardline.

“The forwards have missed a lot of scoring chances. We would like to rectify that,” he said.

It is hoped that the semifinals would more than make up for the abysmal fare dished out in the pool matches. 

The Hindu

Hockey India yet to seek government’s go-ahead

By Fawad Hussain

KARACHI: With the top officials of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) announcing separate schedules for hosting the bilateral series against India, their counterparts are yet to seek their government’s clearance for the tour being planned in June.      

While speaking to The Express Tribune, Hockey India’s (HI) Secretary General Dr Narinder Batra said the body will seek permission for the trip after the country’s new government is formed following the imminent general elections in India.

“We have confirmed our tour with the PHF,” said Batra.

“HI is anxious to revive the bilateral series with Pakistan, but we are yet to seek clearance which we will try for once the new government is formed.”

According to a PHF official, both the PHF and HI had earlier scheduled to hold the series in March-April, but the delay in permission from their respective governments had called on for the event’s postponement.

The traditional rivals have not played a bilateral hockey series since 2006 as the sequence was suspended in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, following which, India stalled bilateral sporting relations with Pakistan.

It may also be recalled that India pulled out of a three-nation event in Pakistan last April after its External Affairs Ministry refused permission to visit Pakistan citing security concerns, which forced the PHF to call off the tournament.

When asked about the certainty of the forthcoming series, Batra replied, “We have confirmed to send the team in June but it all depends on the government’s response.”

PHF officials give separate schedules

Interestingly, PHF President Akhtar Rasool and Secretary Rana Mujahid recently announced separate schedules for the series.

According to reports, Rasool, while speaking to reporters in Lahore, said the Indian team would arrive in Lahore on June 19 for the three-match series. He apprised that the first match would be played in Karachi on June 20, followed by matches in Faisalabad and Lahore on June 23 and 25, respectively.

On the other hand, Mujahid announced in Karachi that the Indian team would reach Karachi on June 30, while the matches will be played in July.  Both officials could not be approached despite repeated attempts.

The Express Tribune

PHF seeks FIH permission to stage international events

KARACHI: In an effort to bring international sports back to the country, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has written a letter to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to seek its permission for holding two international events this year.

“It’s now time that international sports should return to Pakistan,” PHF secretary Rana Mujahid said on Friday. “We are looking to organise two international events this year and we have written to the FIH to allow us to host these events.”

Due to precarious security situation prevailing in Pakistan after 9/11, international sports events in the country gradually dried up. And after the armed terrorist attack on visiting Sri Lankan cricket squad in Lahore in 2009 virtually ended international sports action in Pakistan.

Mujahid added that the PHF was looking forward to starting its own league this year under the banner Pakistan Hockey League. According to Mujahid, an Indian sports channel is ready to telecast this proposed event.

“In the first edition of the event, six to eight teams will participate. Every outfit will be allowed to have three foreign players in their line-up. The matches will be staged in Lahore and Karachi,” the PHF secretary added.

He further said that the PHF was also looking to organise the International Prime Minster Gold Invitational Hockey Cup. “We will hold this event on the lines of the Azlan Shah Cup.”

Mujahid hoped that the FIH would allow the PHF to host both the events.


England take on Ireland as World Cup preparations begin

England and Ireland at last Summer's EuroHockey Championships - credit Frank Uijlenbroek

Ahead of the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup on Thursday 10 April England Men’s Head Coach Bobby Crutchley has named a squad of 22 athletes who are up for selection to play against Ireland. The cut to the final 18 will be made following the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Finals Weekend.

The 2014 NOW: Pensions Nations Cup will be run in a different format from that which saw England go up against the Netherlands three times last summer. This time around it’s one match, winner takes all.

With this weekend’s league finals featuring 15 athletes from the 22 man squad, Crutchley is keen to wait until as close to the day as possible to name his final 18 to face the FIH world ranked number 15 side. Speaking about the fixture ahead Crutchley said, “The NOW: Pensions Nations Cup marks the start of preparations for what is going to be an exciting summer with the World Cup, Investec London Cup and Commonwealth Games all on the horizon. Playing the Netherlands at Wakefield last summer gave some of the less experienced guys a chance to play in front of a home crowd for the first time and it’s great that we get to do that again at Reading [Hockey Club] next week. I will be looking to select the final 18 as late as I possibly can so it’s likely to be on Thursday morning.”

He added, “Ireland are a strong side and we’ve had some great battles with them in recent years. They are a team which is continuously improving and with Craig [Fulton] taking over as head coach no doubt players will be keen to impress ahead of their Champions Challenge tournament in a couple of weeks.”

England’s one to watch

Reading’s Tom Carson will no doubt be a man to watch if selected to the squad next Thursday. Carson will be playing at his club’s home ground [Reading HC] and having notched up 13 goals already in just 28 appearances, three of which came against Ireland in 2013, Fulton’s side will be all too aware of the attacking threat he poses.

England v Ireland – the history

England and Ireland have a playing history which records show spans back to 1895, with England winning 66 out of the 99 meetings. 15 of the squad will have vivid memories of the team’s last encounter when a 2-2 draw in Boom [Belgium] was enough to see England through to the 2013 European semi-finals, but left Ireland third in their group and battling it out for the lower placings.

A number of athletes playing in the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup will have to switch from being club teammates to international opponents, as those who play domestically for Reading also play alongside two players named in the Ireland squad – John Jackson and Chris Cargo. Add in the factor of playing at their club’s home-ground, no doubt the selected Reading internationals, both English and Irish, will be relishing the fixture ahead of them.

England v Ireland – two match series

As soon as the final 18 athletes are selected on Thursday morning the details will be available at englandhockey.co.uk. The NOW: Pensions Nations Cup will be followed by a training match against Ireland at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Friday 11 April. This match will not be capped and there will not be a match report or press release following the game.

England squad injuries

Notable omissions from the squad of 22 are Henry Weir, Andy Bull and Darren Cheesman who have all been ruled out of selection due to injury. Richard Smith is also still sidelined following surgery on his knee at the start of the year.

England Hockey Board Media release

See the stars at the NOW: Pensions Men's Hockey League Finals

Beeston #10 Adam Dixon

Every team in the top four taking part in the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Finals this weekend has got several England players named in their squads. For some of the players it’ll be good practice for the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup coming up next Thursday!

At 14.45 on Saturday the first of the semi-finals kicks off, and it’ll see the top team in the Premier Division East Grinstead face off against the late challenger Surbiton, who were the last to claim a place in the top four. Keep an eye out, and you might see some of the following England internationals.

Ashley Jackson has long been a star player of East Grinstead and England, and he’ll be joined on the field by fellow seniors David Condon and Mark Gleghorne. Luke Taylor and Simon Faulkner both recently featured in the England U21 men’s squad and Niall Stott, often found on the national squad of Scotland (who England men will soon be playing at the Five Nations Championship in Glasgow), rounds off East Grinstead’s internationals.

Surbiton will also be taking to the field with their own selection of international players – Chris Grassick, of Scotland and GB fame, is in the squad along with England’s Rob Moore and another U21 player James Gall. The U21s might have played together at the Sultan of Johor Cup, but now they’ll have to use what they’ve learned about each other’s playing styles when working together to try and get the upper hand when they face off against each other this weekend.

At 1700 it’s the turn of the top four’s middle ground, as Beeston plays against the hosts Reading. It’ll likely be a good show for the crowd, especially those looking for quality international action before the NOW: Pensions Nations Cup next week, as between both teams there’s no fewer than 11 players currently listed on the England men’s team, as well as several players who have been on the team in the past.

Up first is Beeston, with Premier Division goalkeeper of the season and England goalkeeping champion George Pinner. He’s a force to be reckoned with between the posts, but hopefully he won’t have too much work to do with five of his England and Beeston team-mates doing their best to keep the ball at the far end of the pitch. Ollie Willars, Tim Whiteman, Harry Martin, Ben Arnold and Team Captain Adam Dixon have all been named in the Nations Cup squad, so hopefully you’ll get to see some of the tricks they’ve learned during their England training as they play for the trophy.

Last but not least is Reading, Championship hosts and third of the top four. They’ve long had an impressive line-up of England stars, and this year’s squad is no exception. James Bailey, Simon Mantell, Dan Shingles, Tom Carson and Nick Catlin are also named in the Nations Cup squad, and they’ve even got a few team members from the other side of the Nations Cup (and the Irish Sea), Ireland. John Jackson and Chris Cargo have both been placed in the Ireland squad, so they may have to work hard to get themselves in the mindset of international rivalry over domestic teamwork after this weekend.

England Hockey Board Media release

Clydesdale & Watsonians take home the U18 club honours

Watsonians celebrate their Scottish Cup success. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

PSL Team Sports Clydesdale and Watsonians were the winners of the U18 Boys and Girls Scottish Club Cup competitions at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre this evening.

Elsewhere, Inverleith and Clydesdale Western were winners of the Plate competitions.

Clydesdale were dominant in the U18 Boys Scottish Club Cup final, defeating Perthshire 6-1.

Clydesdale were the U18 Boys Scottish Club Cup winners. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Four goals from Murray Collins and a goal each for Chris McFadden and John Joe Lonergan gave the Titwood outfit a comfortable win in the end.

Callum White scored Perthshire's consolation goal.

A good night for Clydesdale Hockey Club. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Watsonians edged home as the winners of the U18 Girls Scottish Club Cup after a 4-3 win on running penalties against local rivals CALA Edinburgh.

Amy Costello opened the scoring for CALA in the tenth minute from a penalty corner.

Joanna Prentice equalised for Watsonians in the 26th minute, before Lucy Ramsay gave them the lead in the 44th minute.

Nevertheless, Phoebe Crosthwaite put CALA back on level terms three minutes later.

In the U18 Boys Scottish Plate Final, Inverleith recorded a comprehensive 8-1 win over Gordonians.

Four goals from Patrick Christie, a hat-trick from Tom Van Rijn and a John McKay strike got the goals for the Purple Robes. The Aberdonians' goal came from Alan Oldham.

Inverleith were the winners of the Boys Plate final against Gordonians. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Clydesdale Western were the winners of the U18 Girls Scottish Club Plate after a 3-1 win over Inverleith.

Goals from Alice Sherwood, Frances Lonergan and Julie Lonergan ensured the win; Ella Watt was on the scoresheet for the Edinburgh side.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Going Dutch

Is a strong domestic league the secret to international success?

When hockey players routinely leave their friends and family travel half-way around the world to play their sport, you have to ask yourself 'Why?'. What is it about the the Dutch hockey league that entices the best players to up sticks and move – in the case of many, for most of their careers?

We spoke to four players, all at the top of their game and all plying their skills in the Dutch league, several thousands of miles from home.

Phil Burrows is one of New Zealand's all time top goal scorers. He has competed for the Blacksticks in three Olympic Games and two World Cups, winning more than 120 caps in the process. He has played club hockey in the Netherlands since 2005, initially for Breda, but now for HGC Hockey Club.

Explaining the move Phil says: "I went because it is the best competition in the world, which can only improve my hockey.  And the fact that I can play hockey and live as a professional athlete. Living and playing in a different country and adjusting to new cultures has been such a great experience."

Over the past nine years, Phil has seen first-hand what makes the Dutch style of play so special: "They are playing international type games week in, week out, and that is invaluable for keeping in top shape. The Dutch are highly skilful players, so I have learnt how to use those skills, but also how to combat them.

"I think what we lack at times with the New Zealand team is the ability to hold the ball for large periods of the game. That is one thing for sure we have tried to take from the Dutch style of play. That, and their ability to counter attack with extreme pace."

While Australia's Matthew Swann quickly adjusted to life in the Netherlands and has slotted into his role in the club easily, he still finds the European weather a challenge. "Playing in snow is very different to what I am use to," he laughs.

"I decided to play in the Dutch League because I wanted to experience playing in a competition that is of a high standard and also experience a different culture while doing so. The environment you find yourself in gives you the ability to learn new skills and different styles of play."

Swann explains that in Australia there is much less opportunity for the international players to become immersed in the club scene. "In Australia, you barely train with the club. You train mostly with the Australian group, so with the Dutch club scene you feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership to your club."

Kookaburra teammate Kieran Govers has played in both Germany and the Netherlands, on the advice of fellow Australian internationals Mark Knowles and Jamie Dwyer. Although Kieran loves being at home in Wollongong, he realised that to fulfil his hockey ambitions, he needed to push himself further.

Kieran plays for Den Bosch in the Netherlands. "It is the best competition in the world," says the Kookaburra forward. "Being a professional hockey player means I can devote more time to training and skills development, rather than working in a job outside of hockey just to keep afloat with bills and family needs."

It wasn't all plain sailing for Kieran however. The Dutch style of play is to fall away and play a zonal game, whereas the Kookaburra scoring machine likes to attack all the time. He admits that this took some getting used to. Now, he is fully integrated into the Dutch way of life and he sees playing in the Dutch league as a good break from the national team training environment.

For Blackstick's Shea McAleese, who is about to embark on his third season in the Netherlands, it was simply a question of wanting high quality competition every time he stepped on the pitch. "In my view, it is the most competitive league in the world. Some games are as good a quality as international games due to the strengths of a lot of the top teams. Playing each week at a consistently high level has definitely helped my consistency when playing for New Zealand.

And it is not just the high level of performance that Shea enjoys. "Playing in a foreign country has an immense impact on my hockey. You get to experience a different style of hockey so you can add to your own game by learning from other players who have different skills or who view the game differently.

FIH site

Veteran hockey player Madzli quits

Mohd Madzli Ikmar has quit the national team for good to concentrate on club hockey and coaching. - Filepic

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former national skipper Mohamed Madzli Ikmar, who was called out of retirement in September last year, has decided to quit the national hockey team.

Madzli revealed on Friday that he had informed the team management on Thursday of his decision to quit the team currently preparing for the Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan from April 26-May 4 and World Cup Finals in Holland from May 31-June 15.

Madzli, 34, had initially quit international hockey in April 2012 after Malaysia failed to make the cut for the London Olympics.

But he continued to play for his employers, Tenaga Nasional (TNB), in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL). Last year, he earned a call-up from then national coach Paul Revington.

He went on a couple of tours with the team to Australia and South Korea and was supposed to be among the senior players to be included in the Champions Challenge 1 squad.

“Yes, I am quitting the national team for good. I will now concentrate on the domestic league and coaching task with TNB,” said Madzli, adding that he had a talk with his family before coming to the decision.

National coach K. Dharmaraj said Madzli’s withdrawal was a blow as he can still contribute to the team.

“But we have to respect his decision. It was not a sudden decision. He said that his body is not able to take in the training sessions any more and it has become harder to perform at such a high level.

“He has been an exemplary player and we wish him the best. He has always produced a very high work-rate and was a good defensive player,” said Dharmaraj.

The Star of Malaysia

A time when Pillay-Shahbaz rivalry enthralled Dhaka

Subhash Rajta

Mirpur - He looked a little surprised. Perhaps just to make sure he had heard it right, he repeated the request put to him, aloud, "You are from India and you want to talk about hockey?" he said, putting as much stress as possible on every word he spoke in a strange mix of Bangla, English and Hindi. "Not cricket?" he asked, checking one final time.

It's easy to understand where the middle-aged assistant manager of Abahani Sports Club, one of the two top sports clubs in Dhaka, the other being Mohammedan Sporting Club, was coming from. It's the club which Raman Lamba, the Indian cricketer, played for in the 90s; it's the same club where he died when he was struck on the head while fielding.

Ever since, a visit to the club has become almost a must for every visiting Indian sports journalist. The club, even though it's tough to talk about the tragic incident time and again, accommodates as many requests as possible, but not without an obvious discomfort. It does it with a sense of obligation to the deceased cricketer rather than anything else.

But mention hockey, and every face in the vicinity lights up, that's of course when they are convinced that one actually wants to talk about hockey. "We had several great Indian players playing for our club in the 90s… (Dhanraj) Pillay, Mukesh Kumar, Mohammed Riaz, Baljeet Dhillon… but Pillay was class apart, he was more popular here than he was perhaps back in India" says Ahsan Rana, a former Bangladesh captain and Abahani player. "Pillay was a great player, a great human being too. For him, the association with our club wasn't just for money, he gave his heart and soul to the club. He was our mentor, and it was a matter of pride for everyone to play alongside him."

There's a bigger reason why hockey buffs remember Pillay so fondly in Dhaka. From mid 90s to a couple of years after the turn of the century, club hockey was at its best in Dhaka, with rivalry between Abahani and Mohammedan Sporting, the passion.

"At that time the rivalry between the two clubs was at its peak. While the likes of Pilllay, Mukesh played for Abahani, the legendary Shahbaz Ahmed and Tahir Zaman from Pakistan played for Mohammedan. The stadium would be packed and the environment was similar to that you see during the India-Pakistan cricket match, perhaps even more exhilarating," said Mohammed Sikander, another former national hockey player. "And mind you, it wasn't religion based. It was about who liked which club and which players."

The mercurial Pillay, known as much for his fiery temper as for his skills back home, was his usual self in Dhaka too. While he had crowds marveling over his stick work and dazzling runs on the field, he wasn't averse to throwing tantrums here too. "During one particularly heated game, some Mohammedan supporters abused him. He was so infuriated that he stormed out of the stadium and drove straight to the airport. And before anyone could do anything, he was back in India," chuckled Rana. "But everyone still adores him here, we are still in touch with him."

So, how's hockey doing now? "It's almost dead. Cricket has killed it. Every influential person and sponsors want to be seen associated with cricket." The refrain sounds all too familiar. "Besides, where are the players like Pillay and Shahbaz who could pull crowds to the stadium?"

Perhaps that too is true, to a large extent.

The Tribune

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