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News for 25 December 2014

All the news for Thursday 25 December 2014

Ringing in the New Year, and what a year of hockey we have in store...

The Indoor World Cup and the World Hockey League Semi-Finals and Finals are the highlights in a fantastic 2015.

(Photo: FIH)

As a fantastic year of hockey in 2014 draws to a close, 2015 beckons.

The Hockey World League returns in January with the start of round two in Singapore and five other round two competitions throughout February and March.

February will be a busy month as the Indoor World Cup returns to Leipzig in Germany. 

Three Hockey World League Semi-Finals will take place in June and the League will conclude in November and December with the Final.

Follow all the news and action throughout 2015 on our dedicated hockey social media channels: website: www.fih.ch facebook at www.facebook.com/fihockey; or twitter @FIH_Hockey.

We hope you are as excited about this fantastic year of hockey action as we are.






FIH site

Remarkable turnaround

The manner in which Germany raised its game and bounced back from defeats in the pool stage to win the title for the 10th time was simply astounding.

 By Y. B. Sarangi

Uplifting victory…players of the German team celebrate with the Champions Trophy at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Germany and Pakistan, the two bottom-placed teams in the pool stage, featuring in the title clash of the 35th Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar recently pointed to the flux in world hockey following the World Cup this year. The turnaround of the two teams though was fascinatingly different.

Olympic champion Germany, which had been struggling through the year, with some below par performances in the World League Final and the World Cup, had the maximum number of youngsters in its squad. And most of them were part of the 2013 Junior World Cup-winning side.

Germany, which came into the tournament following an indoor hockey season, had to deal with the difference in temperatures of around 30 degrees. The team, ranked No. 3 in the world, managed a hard-fought win against India before losing to Argentina and the Netherlands to finish at the bottom of Pool B. However, the manner in which Germany raised its game and made a comeback was simply astounding.

Guided by the master tactician, Markus Weise, the German team raised its game by several notches to defeat England and Australia in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively before stifling Pakistan in the final to regain the Champions Trophy after seven years. Incidentally, this was Germany’s 10th title triumph in the elite tournament.

“It took a while to get adjusted to the tournament, but the team effort was there and we made progress against England and Australia. The younger boys learnt a lot by playing here before the amazing crowd,” said Weise.

“The progress will help in building the team for the Rio Olympics,” he added.

Pakistan, the lowest ranked side, which had been struggling due to a lack of exposure and financial crisis, had a nightmarish start to the tournament. It lost all its three matches to strong sides, Belgium, England and Australia, before finding its rhythm to defeat the higher ranked Netherlands (World Cup silver medal winner) in the quarterfinals and the Asian Games champion, India, in the semifinals.

However, the three-time champion, making it to the final after 16 years, had to settle for the silver medal, losing to a far superior Germany in the summit clash.

Even as Pakistan’s second place finish reflected the country’s talent pool and resilience, the offensive behaviour of its players, who made obscene gestures at the crowd during their wild celebrations following their semifinal victory against archrival India, brought the nation a bad name on the international stage.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) had initially let off Pakistan following an ‘apology’ from its head coach Shahnaz Sheikh.

But later, the apex body changed its stand and suspended two players — midfielder Muhammad Tousiq and reserve goalkeeper Ali Amjad — for one match and reprimanded another — vice-captain and forward Shafqat Rasool — after Hockey India had threatened that it might withdraw from hosting major international events such as the 2016 Junior World Cup and the 2018 Men’s World Cup.

The Hockey India President, Narinder Batra, also threatened to call off the proposed bilateral series with Pakistan, after which the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) sent a mail to the Indian federation, apologising for its players’ behaviour.

The unacceptable conduct of the Pakistani players, which had drawn criticism from players of various teams, triggered angry reactions from the spectators, who booed the team in the final and rooted strongly for Germany.

Shahnaz Sheikh, who rued the ugly behaviour of his players, said the result was beyond his expectation and should boost Pakistan hockey. “We had come here with a target to reach the last four, but we went one step further by reaching the final,” he said.

It was not an encouraging tournament for the world champion, Australia, which had several new faces and was guided by a new coach, Graham Reid.

The 13-time champion — which felt the absence of the retired Liam de Young and Rob Hammond and the injured Mark Knowles, Jamie Dwyer, Kieran Govers and Joel Carroll — had a rollercoaster ride before ending up with a bronze medal after beating India in the third place match.

World No. 9 India, enjoying the best year after 1980, when it had won the Olympics gold medal — it had won a gold in the Asian Games and a silver in the Commonwealth Games earlier this year — was expecting to end its 32-year medal drought in the competition. But the team struggled for consistency, as it began its campaign with defeats to Germany and Argentina before stunning the Netherlands in its final pool engagement.

India, which has won only a bronze medal (1982) in the history of the Champions Trophy, went down fighting to Pakistan in a high voltage semifinals, and to Australia in the fight for the third place. Indian hockey’s High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans backed the team, saying the players were tired after a long season. He, however, pointed out that they needed to be more consistent while executing plans.

“We have beaten the top three teams in the world this year,” Oltmans said. “If this group stays together it has a bright future,” he added, referring to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Strong teams such as the Netherlands, England, Argentina and Belgium filling up the bottom four places raised questions about the format of the Champions Trophy, which ensured quarterfinal berths for all the participating teams. However, the FIH President, Leandro Negre, defended the format, saying it was good for the promotion of the sport. “We have to sell the sport,” he said.

As for the organising of the tournament, Bhubaneswar, the latest of international hockey venues, received good reviews from various teams.

Amidst a festive atmosphere, packed houses on all six days enhanced the appeal of the event.

The FIH, which is considering the option of holding the 2018 World Cup at more than one venue, has short-listed the city for the mega event following the successful conduct of the Champions Trophy.


All-rounder Ashley

The Englishman has been nominated by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) for this year’s ‘Player of the Year’ award.

By Y. B. Sarangi.

Ashley Jackson (left) of England is tackled by Belgium's Tanguy Cosyns during a champions trophy match at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar. SANDEEP SAXENA

On the hockey field, Ashley Jackson is omnipresent. He runs from post to post with admirable effortlessness and positions himself well in order to contribute to his team’s cause in every crucial situation.

Jackson dashes into the rival territory with exemplary pace, controls the ball with command in the midfield, runs back to tackle the offenders and converts penalty corners with confidence. With a rare combination of grace, skill, athleticism and intelligence, Jackson stands out as a complete hockey player.

For entertaining the hockey lovers with his gifted abilities and hardwork, Jackson, who scored his 111th international goal during the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar to surpass Calum Giles’ record and become the highest goal-scorer for England, has been rightly nominated by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) for this year’s ‘Player of the Year’ award.

Serving England in the Champions Trophy at the Kalinga Stadium, the 27-year-old all-rounder said he always loved to be in the thick of action. “You want to be involved in everything. You don’t want to be watching someone (else) doing something. I am happy with the responsibility. There is not as much responsibility in this team any more as there was a few years back because everyone is growing as a player and becoming better and we have a much better squad,” said Jackson.

Jackson said one needed to be mentally flexible in order to develop into an all-rounder. “It is just the way you are as a player. Some people are happy to sit back and be part of something and other people want to be in the forefront. I am happy to be part of a great team with a great bunch of guys. It is enjoyable.”

Taking pride in the England team which has several fine players, Jackson hoped that it would achieve some good result at the highest level.

“This team is great and it is special to be part of it. We are improving all the time. And we just need to make it to the semifinal stage (of a tournament). A couple of times we played as well as we could but got beaten by better teams. We are hoping to make our next step very soon and come back with some good medals.”

He was effusive in his praise for the up and coming players in the England team. “These guys are very talented. Griffiths is a phenomenal striker and a good dribbler and Ward is an out-and-out goal-scorer. So, they are nice additions to the squad and I hope they continue with their good work. They are working hard and learning fast. It is difficult to come into any team as a young guy and pick up the tactical part. They are doing it phenomenally well.”

at the prime of his career, Jackson hopes to provide enjoyment to the fans for many more years.

But when he finally hangs up his stick, he would love to have a “variety of medals” including those from the Olympics and the World Cup.


FIH’S hard sell

The reaction to the latest changes in rules has been mixed. While the FIH maintains that the changes have been made in the best interest of hockey, some are of the view that frequent tweaking of the rules is not good for the sport.

By Y. B. Sarangi.

Leandro Negre… “By introducing too many changes we can have confusions, but if we have a good idea I think we need to implement that.” SANDEEP SAXENA

The latest changes to the rules, introduced by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), have evoked mixed response. Some have expressed their apprehension over frequent tweaking of the rules, which, they contend, is not good for the sport.

However, the apex body backed its decision, arguing that the changes were made keeping in mind the best interest of the sport.

The FIH has recently ruled that an attacking free hit, awarded within five metres from the edge of the circle, could be taken from the point of offence. “The ball still has to travel at least five metres before it can be played into the circle, or alternatively has to be touched by another player of either team, other than the player taking the free hit,” the amended rule states.

The other rule change is replacing the “inefficient and ineffective” long corner with a re-start from the 23-metre line.

According to the well-known coach and present Hockey Australia selector, Barry Dancer, the change pertaining to the long corner is “worth experimenting.”

“It should help the attacking teams score more goals. The rule change on free hits from the dotted line should also help attacking hockey. It will generate more scoring opportunities and will be better for the spectators,” said Dancer.

According to the Pakistan captain, Muhammad Imran, the players will not have too many problems in adapting to the new rules, which would be effective from January next. “We need to practise and adjust our game. We have adapted to the 60-minute, four-quarter format so quickly. The new changes should not pose a problem,” he said.

If you go back and take a flick from very close (to the circle) then it can be dangerous. They have done away with the long corner as well. They are trying to improve the game. — Van der Weerden

Imran also welcomed the change — though a minor one — that would now allow players to wear the safer metal-grilled masks while defending penalty corners.

Dutch player Mink van der Weerden said the new free hit rule could prove dangerous. “If you go back and take a flick from very close (to the circle) then it can be dangerous. They have done away with the long corner as well. They are trying to improve the game,” he said.

Van der Weerden, nevertheless, felt that frequent rule changes might result in an identity crisis for hockey. “Only hockey lovers come and watch the Champions Trophy and the World Cup. But the Olympics is the best exhibition of hockey for the general people. There will be a big difference between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in terms of the changes in the game. There are too many rule changes including the four-quarter format.

“The good thing about soccer is that they do not change rules and it remains as it is so that general people understand the game,” he remarked.

The German coach, Markus Wiese, had a similar view as well. “I do not know which other sport changes its rules so much. We are changing two rules every year. So, we are consistent at that,” he quipped.

The FIH president, Leandro Negre, who stressed the need to “sell” the sport through television, defended the changes to the rules though. “I think we need to make changes. I am quite sure all of you will agree that the changes we have made are for the best of hockey. The new rules are much better than how we used to play four years ago. I also know that by introducing too many changes we can have confusions, but if we have a good idea I think we need to implement that,” said Negre.


This season Royal hockey players have a reason to give

V Narayan Swamy

Bengaluru: 'Play on I say', was Devaraj's favourite slogan. He was neither a coach nor a hockey strategist in the traditional sense. But he had a keen eye, remarkable observation skills and a rare talent to transform schoolboys into sound hockey players.

Small wonder, his Royal Hockey Club — an idea that struck Devaraj after he watched a few boys playing the game at the St Francis Xavier's cathedral in the 1960s and founded with the primary aim of tapping grassroots talent — was a veritable nursery that produced champion players for decades who turned out for top public sector units, the state and the country. In short, Royals was to hockey what Sports Authority of India and the sports hostel are to the game now.

Today, a frail and helpless Devaraj, 74, lies virtually immobile at his cubbyhole of a house at Cleveland Town, having survived a brain tumour and being disabled by a paralytic stroke. He has suffered in silence for years. His speech is slurred and his conversations with the few guests that he receives are restricted to mere gestures.

Handicapped since birth by polio and crutch-bound, Devaraj now spends time with his nephew Mahendar, occasionally travelling to Chennai for his treatment and hoping that he would be able to meet his mounting medical expenses.

Of the 'Royalites' that Devaraj produced, former India captain Jude Felix still visits him while volunteers from Felix's academy and a few former Royals' players take care of a part of Devaraj's medical bills. Another Royals player, Karnataka State Hockey Association secretary K Krishnamurthy, regularly chips in, as have others such as Sam Varkey Thomas, Christopher Manohar and Thomas Nazarius.

"To see him in this condition is heart-rending," says Felix, who played for a season with Royals before moving to HAL. "We used to look up to Deva, everyone aspired to play for Royals. We knew we were in safe hands. He spent whatever he earned as a newspaper agent on his nursery and supported his players throughout. He would pay a player's school fees if necessary or go around knocking on the doors of big employers seeking jobs for the seniors. He succeeded because he was held in high respect by all. Scores of hockey players have gained from his selfless ways. But now, there aren't many to help him."

Devaraj, who founded the club with Madras Engineer Group's VJ Peter, Samuel and Phillips of St. Aloysius School, has seen the rise and fall of Royals in the past 50 years. He still recalls the match Royals played in the 60s against CIL, a strong outfit comprising state players. His team held them to a draw for three days (there were no tie-breakers then) before losing on the fourth day. In the same breath, Devaraj also laments the fall of club culture which began in the 90s and the slow death of hockey in Karnataka.

"The club never had a permanent place to train. It would be at MEG, St John's or Aloysius. Wherever we played, moves and positions would be drawn on the sand. Those were crucial lessons learnt. We played tournaments all over South India equipped with this knowledge. Deva had photographic memory. He would recall old matches and moves without a hitch. Our preparation for a match would be a blend of these virtues. Players such as Gunasheelan, Vijayakumar, Murthy, George Fernandes, Janardhan, Ramesh Parameswaran and many others emerged out of this nursery, before heading to big institutions such as HAL, BEML, BEL, Central Excise, RBI and ITI amongst others," Felix said.

"In the initial days, Royals had enough players to field four teams. He would tirelessly watch various combinations of players, make notes so that the best took the field in big competitions. He played every role possible: talent-spotter, strategist, tactician, umpire and our benefactor. Not once did he allow his physical deformity to rein him in. 'I am not handicapped in the mind', he would say."

But today Devaraj needs help. People have helped him in the past but what he requires is a constant flow of funds which will help him tide over the medical crisis. "We raised funds two years ago during a World Series Hockey game. KSHA too contributed to the cause. But it was not enough. So, a few volunteers from JFHA and Royalites decided to contribute Rs 5,000 a month. Now, even that has not sufficed," said Felix.

Krishnamurthy said KSHA was eager to help Devaraj. "We have a reserve fund for hockey players in need. We plan to raise funds specifically for Deva, chip in with our own contribution as well as seek donations from the public," he said.

Felix too was in consonance with the idea. "What Devaraj needs is a permanent source of income. A good amount as fixed deposit in his name should help him. I appeal to all Royals Hockey Club players to help Devaraj. This is the best guru dakshina that he can get."

Contributions can be sent to AM Devaraj, A/c number 457702011005174, Union Bank of India, St. John's School branch, Cleveland Town or to the secretary, Karnataka State Hockey Association, Rhenius Street, Langford Town, Shanthinagar, Bengaluru - 560 025.

The Times of India

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