News for 31 December 2014
All the news for Wednesday 31 December 2014
The end of an era
Hockey's Mr.T retires
Subramanyam Thyagarajan, "A Lion with a Tiger" - Ijaz Chaudhry. Photo: Facebook Profile picture
When Fieldhockey.com started in 1996 one of the first sites I found that carried regular hockey stories was The Hindu with the remarkable writing of one S. Thyagarajan. His pieces were always extremely well written and not subject to the hyperbole some of the other papers indulged in when India either won or lost and subsequently calling for the head of the current coach. His comments and observations were always fair and always recognised you cannot win every match.
I had the good fortune to meet this remarkable man a year later at the Junior World Cup in Milton Keynes when Pat Rowley introduced me to Mr. T, and again at several other major hockey tournaments thereafter, and have enjoyed his writing even more having actually met him.
Little did I know that he was keeping a very close eye on Fieldhockey.com until one dreadful day I missed one of his stories in The Hindu. I received a very polite email enquiring why his story had not been carried that day, an oversight that was quickly corrected!
On occasions where space had not allowed the paper to carry Mr. T's full story and a sub-editor had "butchered" the original, I was always sent his submission and asked to please place the full text on Fieldhockey.com instead of the edited version, something I have always been more than happy to do.
I think that my favourite memory of Mr. T is always going to be was at a major tournament where India had just played, he called the Sports Editor to ask for his space allocation and number of words he had to write the story. The reply we all heard was "1000 words? I will not write for 1000 words", which gave most of the other journalists in the room heart failure as they had all just negotiated their allocation from 300 words to 500 words. Needless to say Mr.T was given carte blanche on the number of words and I didn't receive the full text, meaning he hadn't been restricted!
Today he retires from The Hindu aged 74, after a remarkable 52 years service.
Mr. T, I am going to miss your contributions to Fieldhockey.com via The Hindu, but I know I will still enjoy your support and interest in the site. I wish you a long and happy retirement and a huge thank from me for being such a wonderful writer to the game we all love.
Mr T retires - great writer will be sorely missed
By Dil Bahra
Subramanyam Thyagarajan, affectionately known world over to the hockey fraternity as Mr. T, retires from sports journalism today (31st December 2014) after a career spanning over half a century.
Mr T, now aged 74, joined the Sports Department of The Hindu, one of India’s largest circulated newspapers, as a reported on 6 June 1962. He was put in charge of hockey from the national championship for the Rangaswamy Cup in 1967. Subsequently, he covered 25 national competitions.
He reported for The Hindu and its sister publication, The Sports Star, on six Olympic Games (1984-2004), eight World Hockey Championships (1982-2010), nine Asian Games (1982-2014), Asian Championships (1985-2005) apart from a host of internationals including Champions Trophy, Azlan Shah Cup, Junior World Cups, Pre-Olympic tournaments and Inter-Nation tournaments.
Mr T (middle row centre) with members of Hockey Writers' Club in Edinburgh in 2001. Photo: Dil Bahra
Besides hockey, he has reported international events, athletics, tennis, table tennis and badminton.
He headed the Media Commission of the Asian Hockey Federation from 1998 to 2014. He was Chairman of Field Hockey Commission (AIPS) from 1998 to 2006 and also served as member of the Communication Committee of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) till it was disbanded in 1998. He was also a former President of the Sports Journalists Federation of India (SJFI) and a member of Hockey Writers’ Club.
Patrick Rowley, the former Editor of "World Hockey" and a long-time colleague, writes: "Mr T was a stylist and top class journalist. His dedication has done so much to benefit hockey's profile. He will be sorely missed".
He retires as Associate Editor after an unprecedented tenure of 52 years.
Sikhs in Hockey
From Mr. T
Dear friends and colleagues
All good things come to an end. So does my unprecedented 52-year tenure with the Sports Department of THE HINDU on December 31, 2014.
What a fascinating journey it has been to be blessed by opportunities that facilitated coverage of six Olympic Games (1984-2004), eight hockey World Cups (1982-2010), nine Asian Games (1982-2014), six Asia Cup Championships (1985-2013), and eight Champions Trophies.
Aside from these were the international and national competitions from all major cities in Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, and Africa. The missing link is South America. The assignments included besides hockey, were disciplines like athletics, tennis, table tennis, and badminton.
The innings also consisted of chairing the Field Hockey Commission in the AIPS (1998-2006), membership in the FIH Communications Committee (1998-2009) and the role as Chairman, AHF Media Commission (1998-2014).
All these achievements would have been impossible but for the support of the management/editors/colleagues in THE HINDU.
I take this opportunity to express through FB my gratitude to all my fellow journalists/writers (both here and abroad), the players, officials, friends and readers whose motivation and inspiration I must acknowledge with folded hands.
A BIG THANKS FOR ALL.
S.THYAGARAJAN (MR. T)
West Central Railway edge past gritty ITBP
Players in action during a semifinal of the Mohinder Singh Munshi tournament in Jalandhar on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Sarabjit Singh
Patiala - West Central Railway scored two late goals to thwart a fightback from ITBP and win 4-2 on the third day of the 39th GS Bains Liberals All India Hockey Tournament in Nabha on Tuesday.
The two teams crossed swords in a hotly contested match. After a goalless 50 minutes, Railways mounted pressure and scored twice in quick succession through Mudir and Moto Tej in the 51st and 54th minutes.
ITBP retaliated and Gurvinder converted a penalty corner in the 61st minute. Harvinder scored two minutes later to equalise. But ITBP’s joy was short-lived as Railways hit back. Moto Tej completed his hat-trick with goals in the 66th and 70th minutes.
Earlier, SGPC Academy thrashed PAU, Ludhiana, 5-1. PAU went ahead through Arjun Singh in the 8th minute. But SGPC Academy scored five quick goals in the second half through Manjinder Singh, Gurbhej, Jaspreet Jr., Jaspreet Sr. and Prem.
In the third match, Artillery Centre, Nasik, came back from being 2-0 down to beat Azad Sports Academy 4-2.
Jalandhar: Surjit Academy and Ratwara Sahib Academy stormed into the final of the Mohinder Singh Munshi Hockey tournament at the PAP hockey stadium in Jalandhar on Tuesday. Ratwara Sahib defeated SGPC Academy 2-1 and Surjit Academy defeated Chhehrata Sahib 3-0.
Silver medals at Incheon Asian Games and FIH Champions Trophy high points of Pakistan hockey in 2014
By Muhammad Ali
WINNING silver medals at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea and the FIH Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar, India, against all odds, were the high points of Pakistan hockey in the year 2014. The Pakistan senior squad played only 12 matches in two major tournaments in 2014 and won seven matches and lost five. In these matches, the greenshirts scored 46 goals while 31 were scored against them. It is interesting to note that the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) was not able to provide the players with proper preparation for two mega international events owing to financial constraints, but the low-profile Pakistan outfit surprised all and sundry with their stunning performances. It was extremely embarrassing that Pakistan went to India for the Champions Trophy after some businessmen gave financial assistance to the PHF. The role of the Pakistan government in this regard was really depolarble.
An ugly incident in India during the Champions Trophy, which led to suspension of two Pakistan players, was not only in bad taste but also showed the lack of players’ grooming by the PHF. No doubt, two back-to-back medals did give some spark to Pakistan hockey that remained highly disappointing with the national squad not participating in the World Cup 2014 due to qualification failure and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 for not sending entry on time. This was the sum of our ‘achievements’ in the sport in which once we were the top dogs in the world.
The Pakistan juniors participated in a lone event in Malaysia - Sultan of Johor Hockey Tournament - and ended up at the last position: sixth. The junior outfit played six contests: losing four while two were drawn. The juniors could score only six goals while 20 were netted against them. A Pakistan youth squad took part in the Youth Olympics held in Nanjing, China and remained fifth. The youth team played seven games: winning five, losing one and one was drawn. They scored 45 goals while 27 were scored against them. Thus, the national game of Pakistan struggled throughout the year in its effort to face foreign teams and find some consistency.
In 2014 Pakistan were denied an opportunity to compete against the European teams because of a weak financial position of the national federation. The PHF, led by former Olympians Chaudhary Akhtar Rasool and Rana Mujahid Ali, continued in its struggle to get the federal government funds for smooth functioning of the national federation but in vain. Due to country’s obsession with cricket these days, Pakistan hockey has been relegated to the background due to the Pakistan government’s indifferent attitude towards the national sport. On the other hand, our neighbour India in recent years has taken a giant leap in promoting its sports, injecting millions of dollars into cricket, hockey, badminton, tennis, football and kabaddi. They have started staging international leagues attracting world-class players. All this is helping India tremendously to elevate itself in the international sports arena. Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan is exactly the opposite as the federal government lacks the required level of interest to involve the nation in sporting activities. Instead the Pakistan government is more interested in squandering billions of rupees on worthless projects.
Silver at FIH Champions Trophy in India: At the fag end of the year, Pakistan took part in the elite Champions Trophy and surprised all and sundry by qualifying for the final. Pakistan, who had not played international hockey against the European teams for the last one and a half year, lost their initial three matches poorly but due to the format of the event entered the quarterfinals. Instead of rewarding performances in the preliminary league, all eight participating teams were assured of reaching the quarterfinals -- a round which turned the tournament on its head, and left some teams quietly fuming. The top four teams in the league - England, the Netherlands, Argentina and Belgium - were all knocked out in the round of eight, while the bottom four sailed through to the semifinals. Led by Muhammad Imran and coached by former Olympian Shahnaz Shiekh, Pakistan, who were defeated by Belgium 2-1, England 8-2 and Australia 3-0, stunned the Netherlands 4-2 in the quarterfinal and India 4-3 in the semifinal. Once the masters of the sport, Pakistan had not advanced to the final of a major world competition since 1998, when Pakistan lost the Champions Trophy final to the Dutch in Lahore. In the second semifinal, Germany ended Australia’s lengthy reign as the Champions Trophy holders as they eliminated the Kookaburras in a thrilling tussle 3-2. The Aussies had held the title since 2008, winning five successive titles. Pakistan lost to Olympic champions Germany 2-0 in the pulsating final while Australia downed India 2-1 for bronze. The medal silver gave new life to otherwise wilting Pakistan hockey.
FIH’s one-match ban on two players embarrasses Pakistan: The International Hockey Federation (FIH) put a ban on two Pakistan players for one match each, in the aftermath of Pakistan’s victory over India in the Champions Trophy semifinal. The FIH put the one-match ban each on Amjad Hussain and Tauseeq Ahmed for misconduct, while Shafqat Rasool was let off with a warning. The duo were not able to represent Pakistan in the final against Germany. Earlier, the FIH had said that no action was needed against the misconduct of Pakistan players during their celebrations after winning the nail-biting Champions Trophy semifinal. After comprehensively winning the game 4-3, Pakistan players removed their shirts, started dancing in jubilation, and raised ‘obscene gestures’ towards the crowd. Coach Shahnaz Sheikh tendered an apology for wild celebrations by the players but India’s hockey chief demanded an apology from the Pakistan team for what he called “uncouth behaviour”. The Indian Hockey Federation also lashed out at the FIH for not taking ‘strict’ action against the Pakistan and threatened not to host world meets in future. The anger would surely have been aimed at the Indian team who lost the hard-fought game 4-3, but the team escaped all and any scrutiny when the Indian media instead turned its guns against the Pakistan side.
There is no doubt that a win over India has always held special meaning for Pakistan teams as well as their fans since the inception of this country, and emotions quite naturally run high whenever the two archrivals face off in international sports. Nevertheless, the offensive behaviour of the national team players cannot be condoned in any way. Though it is true that some of Pakistan’s players did get too excited by the victory and ended up conducting themselves like spoiled brats on an unprecedented adrenalin rush, not much digging was done on determining exactly why this happened. On Twitter some Indians, after condemning the antics of the Pakistan team, did confess that the behaviour of the crowd towards the Pakistan side was entirely rude, chauvinistic and abusive. The Pakistan team arrived at the ground packed with noisy and partisan Indian spectators. What wasn’t reported at all in the Indian media was the fact that the Pakistan players were constantly taunted and abused throughout the game and even when they were singing their country’s national anthem just before the start of the semifinal.
For the Pakistan players (most of who are in their late teens and early 20s) the packed, loud stadium became a giant pressure-cooker. And once the final hooter was blown and Pakistan emerged victorious, some Pakistan players behaved as if being suddenly released from the grip of the mob who wanted to send them to gallows. When the Indian media demanded a ban on the Pakistan team by suggesting that these days even soccer players in Europe aren’t allowed to take off their shirts, they must be reminded that certain laws also apply to crowd behaviour. Spectators guilty of racial and other sensitive abuse are at once evicted from the grounds in Europe. Thus so should have that section of the crowd that ended up provoking the Pakistan players. The nasty incident stymied the euphoria of a rare victory over India in India, and compelled Pakistan manager-cum-coach Shahnaz Sheikh to tender an apology.
Failure to defend Asiad gold at Incheon Games: In September-October, defending champions Pakistan, high on confidence after having defeated India in the group stages, were the 17th Asian Games’ only unbeaten team into the final. But lady-luck alluded them against India in the final, where they lost on penalty shootout 4-2. The Indo-Pak Asiad final was witnessed after 32 years. With the defeat in Incheon, Pakistan also failed to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016. Pakistan, who had now lost twice to India in nine Asian Games finals, will have to take part in the tough Olympic Qualifiers. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan hockey has been most successful in the Asian Games. Pakistan’s records at Asian level are unmatchable. Pakistan have won the Asian Games gold medal eight times: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1990 and 2010; this is also the highest number of times a country have come first. They have also won 03 silver and 03 bronze medals at Asiad.
PHF officials get key slots in Asian Hockey Federation: In September, Pakistan hockey won acclamation during a meeting of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where three of its scions were unanimously voted to hold responsible positions in the Asian body. The Congress, comprising 60-member countries, unanimously voted PHF president Akhtar Rasool and PHF secretary general Mujahid Ali as the member executive board and vice-president of the AHF respectively. Akhtar Rasool was also named as an advisor of AHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah who was also elected unopposed. Another scion of Pakistan, Tayyab Ikram, was appointed as the chief executive officer of the Asian body. This was a great occasion that the AHF acknowledged the services of the PHF for the development and promotion of hockey in Pakistan in particular and in Asia in general.
Absence from Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014: Pakistan remained absent from Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, held in July-August, after the PHF failed to enter the event by the deadline because of an internal dispute of the National Olympic Committee of Pakistan. The formation of a parallel Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and the PHF supporting it meant four-time world champions and three-time Olympic gold medallists missed the chance to compete at Glasgow 2014. The PHF ignored the International Olympic Committee-backed National Olympic Committee, headed by Lt Gen (r) Syed Arif Hasan, because it relied heavily on the state-run Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and consequently showed no interest in sending an entry to Glasgow 2014. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had given Pakistan an additional month beyond the original August 16 deadline to submit an entry but the POA did not receive the required assurances from the PHF to submit an application. Unfortunately, common sense did not prevail. The POA did everything they could to get the PHF to work with them but it simply did not happen. Pakistan had finished sixth at the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in 2010, while their best ever finish was a silver medal at Melbourne 2006 Games. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Australia won gold, India silver and England bronze.
Failure to qualify for World Cup 2014: Pakistan could also not compete in the 2014 FIH World Cup, held in May-June, as they were not able to qualify for the mega event that was held in the Netherlands. Australia won the gold after defeating the hosts in the final. It was the first time in the 42 years history of hockey that four-time former champions Pakistan failed to qualify for the World Cup 2014. Pakistan won the inaugural World Cup competition in 1971 and triumphed again in 1978, 1982 and 1994. Former Olympians termed it the ‘darkest day’ in Pakistan’s sporting history, and they were very much right in their observation. Pakistan’s World Cup hopes were dashed when they were beaten 2-1 by South Korea in the semi-final of the 9th Asia Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia in August 2013. Prior to the Asia Cup, the World Hockey League (WHL), also in Malaysia, gave a golden opportunity to three-time Olympic gold medallists Pakistan for qualification. This qualifying competition was handing out three slots for the World Cup 2014, but South Korea outplayed Pakistan 4-3 in the quarter-finals. No doubt, this World Cup qualification failure was a national tragedy for a country that remained up in the clouds for more than three decades.
Azlan Shah Cup pull-out due to lack of funds: In February, Pakistan hockey suffered a set-back and a blow when it was revealed that the national federation had pulled the team out of the 23rd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup ‘due to lack of funds.’ The news came as another jolt to the Pakistan team who had been hoping for a reversal in fortunes after the ignominy of not qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in the game’s history. Pakistan had confirmed their participation earlier and their 11th hour withdrawal had placed the tournament organisers in a sticky situation. The tournament, which ran from March 13-23, was participated by six nations: Canada, South Korea, South Africa, China, Australia and hosts Malaysia. India and France also pulled out from the event.
What Pakistan hockey needs and portents for 2015: To remain consistent, Pakistan hockey still needs improvement all over - at every tier of the game at the domestic level to show an upward graph. The PHF should not be complacent after two medals. They still require a lot of hard work and perseverance - ingredients that many former Olympians do not see in the current cabal at the helm. No sporting federation is a bed of roses, especially one that carries the aspirations of the nation. The sincerity of PHF president Akhtar Rasool and secretary general Rana Mujahid to take Pakistan hockey upward should not be doubted. The PHF expertise is always there to suggest ways and means to guide Pakistan hockey towards a quantum leap. The PHF is taking the game to a more professional plane in terms of skills and competitiveness. With former Olympians like Islahuddin Siddiqui and Shahnaz Shiekh also on board, the PHF is trying to give maximum international exposure and facilities to the senior as well as junior players despite lacking funds.
For many, the greenshirts have become an enigma. They will go on and beat the top ranked team in their own backyard, or criminally lose out to a mundane opposition just as easily. But we must also understand that Pakistan hockey is not the same force that it used to be. So why have we fallen so low? The decline of Asian hockey coincides with the advent of artificial turf that gained currency in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It changed the dynamics of Asian hockey, rendering the dribble-and-dodge game of short passes that Indians and Pakistanis were so good at completely obsolete. It also cut the careers of players by half, and demanded greater physical fitness than before. The Asians have not been able to match the fitness levels of European players. Our critics always want to see national outfit winning, which is an uphill task. It is hard to maintain a winning run in every event. Also, the FIH has over the decades changed some basic rules of the game that the Asians had mastered in their heyday. This also proved to be a disadvantage. Unlike the cricket board, the PHF pays very little money to its players, which is a recipe for low fitness and sagging morale. To rise above again, Pakistan hockey requires strong financial backup, commitment and self-belief. The federal government and business houses should come forward and support the PHF. Only hard and incessant efforts lead to success. In the absence of these, we should not dream of reaching skies in 2015. Self-belief and optimism are the keys to success. By optimism, it is meant that one should firmly believe that the best would happen. No one was expecting that defending champions Pakistan would win a medal at the Incheon Asian Games or even at the elite FIH Champions Trophy but they succeeded against all expectations. Pakistan should carry on that belief with them in the year 2015 also. This will give the greenshirts the moral boost to carry on with their efforts. Pakistan hockey should positively believe that they are going to succeed. This sort of positive thinking urges us onward till the end is achieved. Instead, if we get discouraged and lose heart, the chances are that we will fail to succeed.
Pakistanis have an emotional connection with hockey; the older generation still talks and recall with great delight the spellbinding achievements of the past. While the present generation only has tales of the past to live on. Their love or connection with hockey is only going to be strengthened when they actually see the return of the lost glory. The need of the hour is to bring Pakistan hockey into line with the rest, best and the latest aspects of modern hockey as the game has changed a lot in recent years. Even the best of players cannot win without strategic strength as all team games need to have excellent preemptive and offensive strategies worked out scientifically. And for that we need those persons at the helm of affairs who are thorough professionals with solution to the predicament and the government support just as like the Indian government is helping its sports wholeheartedly. Only then the elusive triumphs will replace the current tragedies that demean the team once basking in Olympic golds and world crowns.
The Daily Times
PIA score convincing victory
SIALKOT: A view of a National Hockey Championship match at the Nawaz Sharif Hockey Stadium on Tuesday.—Online
LAHORE: Three-goal Kashif Ali steered PIA to a convincing 6-1 win over Pakistan Air Force (PAF) as three more matches were decided in the National Hockey Championships in Sialkot on Tuesday.
Kashif banged home in the 12th, 57th and 60th minutes through field attempts. Waqas Akbar (20th), M Zubair (32nd) and Ammad Butt (37th) also contributed one goal each.
Also, two-goal Adnan guided Punjab to earn 5-0 win against Sindh in the second match of the day. Adnan netted goals in the 26th minute and then found the cave in the 47th minute through a field attempt. Bilal (7th), Faizan (35th) and Shahid Anjum (55th) chipped in with one goal each.
Two goals each by Haseem Khan and Hasan Anwar enabled Customs to beat Islamabad 4-2.
Haseem hit goals in the 7th and 41st minutes while Hasan fired goals in the 18th and 45th minutes. For Islamabad, Nouman (31st) and Asmat (59th) were the scorers.
KPK vs Navy; PIA vs Sindh; PQA vs HEC.
Customs, Punjab, PIA score wins in National Hockey
LAHORE - Customs, Punjab and PIA Tuesday registered victories in the ongoing 61st PSO National Hockey Championship which will in full swing at Sialkot Hockey Stadium, Sialkot.
According to Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) spokesman, in the first match of the day, Customs defeated Islamabad by 4-2. For the winners, Haseem Khan slammed two goals first in seventh minute and second in 41st minute while Hassan Anwar also hit two in 18th minute and 45th minute. For the losers, Nouman and Asmat had one goal each in 31st and 59th minutes respectively.
The second match of the day saw Punjab thrashing Sindh by 5-0. Punjab’s Bilal scored the first goal in seventh minute while Adnan hammered in 26th and 47th minutes while Faizan and Shahid Anjum hit one goal each in 35th and 55th minutes respectively.
The third match of day witnessed PIA crushing PAF by 6-0. PIA’s Kashif Ali was top scorer with three goals as he slammed his first goal in the 12th while added second and third in 57th and 60th minutes. Waqas Akbar, M Zubair and Ammad Butt contributed one goal each in 20th, 32nd and 37th minute respectively. Today (Wednesday), KPK will face Navy at 10:30am, PIA will take on Sindh at 12pm while PQA will vie against HEC at 2pm.
Poland fancy their chances for Olympic hockey ticket
by S. Ramaguru
The Poland hockey team limbering up before their training session at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday. - AZHAR MAHFOF/ The STAR
KUALA LUMPUR: Poland are mounting a serious bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The 22-man Poland side arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Monday to prepare for the World League Round Two, an Olympic qualifier, in Singapore from Jan 17-25. They will stay here for two weeks to acclimatise as well as play five friendlies against Malaysia, the National Juniors and Universiti Kuala Lumpur teams.
Poland coach Jerzy Joskowiak got down to business on Tuesday morning, conducting his first training session at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
“We chose Malaysia because we can get good quality friendly matches. We will only go to Singapore on Jan 12. By then, we should be ready for the challenge. We have a young side and almost 90% of our players were here for the Champions Challenge in Kuantan in March. So, they are quite used to the weather as well as the playing conditions,” said Joskowiak.
He added that the team started their Olympic quest with a playing tour of Holland and Belgium in November.
“And earlier this month we were in Spain for three matches. Our players have gained a lot of valuable experience playing in all these matches,” said Joskowiak.
The Poles, who are ranked 18th in the world, have three players who ply their trade in foreign leagues. Goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak plays in the Dutch League while defenders Michal Poltaszewski and Thomasz Gorny play in Germany.
At the World League Round Two, Poland have world No. 14 Japan, Bangladesh and hosts Singapore for company in Group B. Malaysia are in Group A with Oman, Ukraine and Fiji.
The top three teams will qualify for the World League Round Three (semi-finals) in Argentina in June and Belgium in July.
“Malaysia and Japan will be the teams to beat. But we fancy our chances too. Three teams will make the cut and I believe we can be in the mix. But we will not take anything for granted at this stage,” said Joskowiak.
For the record, Poland have qualified for the Olympics on five occasions. They finished 12th in their last appearance in Sydney in 2000.
The Star of Malaysia
Kate Richardson-Walsh awarded MBE in New Year Honours
Maggie Souyave awarded the OBE
Kate Richardson-Walsh is awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list
Great Britain and England captain Kate Richardson-Walsh MBE and ex-international player, coach and performance analyst Maggie Souyave OBE have both been named in the New Year Honours list. The awards are in recognition of their services to hockey.
Kate Richardson-Walsh MBE
England and Great Britain Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh made her international debut back in 1999 and has made over 330 appearances for her country, captaining her side since 2003. London 2012 was the Mancunian’s third Olympics and Glasgow 2014 marked her fourth Commonwealth Games, where she was also selected to be Team England's flag bearer for the closing ceremony. Across a 15 year career Richardson-Walsh has won European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic medals with perhaps a highlight of these being a bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games and more recently a silver during the summer when England came agonisingly close to claiming gold, but lost out to Australia in the final seven seconds in the Commonwealth Games Final.
Click here to see full profile for Kate Richardson-Walsh
Maggie Souyave OBE
Souyave played her first international match in 1974 and went on to represent Great Britain and England 120 times, winning a gold medal in the World Cup as a player then a gold in the European indoor as coach. Following a fantastic international career Souyave turned her hand to teaching PE at Merchant Taylors’ School in Crosby for a number of years, but eventually she made her way back to the elite level where she became a performance analyst to the senior women’s team. With a career that stretched over 40 years at school, club and national levels Souyave has been awarded an OBE in recognition for her outstanding contribution to hockey.
England Hockey Board Media release
Kate Richardson-Walsh returns to Great Britain fold as Olympic qualification year beckons
England and GB captain Kate Richardson-Walsh returns to national side in January as women and men prepare for key year with Olympic qualification and European Championships on horizon
By Rod Gilmour
Wind of change: England and GB captain Kate Richardson-Walsh Photo: ADY KERRY
Will 2015 provide a turnaround in fortunes in Great Britain colours? That will be the hope for Danny Kerry and Bobby Crutchley, the England women’s and men’s national coaches respectively, as the white and red shirts are exchanged for GB colours in Olympic qualification year.
Since GB women won bronze at London 2012, their thin veneer of confidence has seen noticeable cracks appear within the national set-up. The World Cup campaign in The Hague has been well documented but, despite winning silver at the Commonwealth Games and coming so close – 17 seconds – to gold, the world No 6 side still find themselves short of being a cohesive and medal-contending unit.
They will now aim to reach Rio 2016 with the services of Kate Richardson-Walsh, despite admitting to Telegraph Sport in May that she was "pretty certain I will retire this year."
Richardson-Walsh, the 34-year-old captain, has confirmed that she will return to the side in January after taking a three-month sabbatical following Glasgow 2014, though Kerry admitted she will “compete for a place in the same way all the other players do.”
He said: “We will continue to grow the quality of our performance culture. As part of this we will continue to develop aspects of leadership and Kate rejoining the programme from January will no doubt bring her experience and qualities to this endeavour.”
Meanwhile, Kerry and the England staff will continue to treat penalty corner conversion as a "priority", as well as focus on open play goal scoring.
“These two areas were very much a main part of our training in the lead up to the Champions Trophy [where they finished fifth in December]," he admitted.
"However we will now further focus on aspects of delivering these under pressure and ensuring our daily training environment recreates the specificity needed for this development.”
Kerry and his players admitted that since returning to training following an intensive summer, they have integrated a tougher regime in terms of fitness. Their first foray saw them regress in the closing moments in the Mendoza heart during the Champions Trophy, but Kerry believes that the team is on an upward curve.
“Since September, we’ve established a very high standard in our daily training environment which has a clear set of priorities and focus areas,” he said. “The athletes review their training every week to ensure that the environment we’ve created is at a level which will allow us to compete for medals at world level and also that we are progressing towards the objectives of that particular block of work.”
Meanwhile, England men came away with Commonwealth Games bronze after a fourth place finish at the World Cup, though they showed enough world-class potential along the way to suggest that further riches can be sought in 2015.
“I feel that the whole group have made significant strides,” said Crutchley. “I think we are slightly ahead of the curve of success we have been working towards as we continue to build up to the Olympic Qualifiers next year and Rio in 2016.”
England’s Champions Trophy campaign was blighted by several factors which contributed in them finishing the tournament in seventh, two places below their world ranking: illness to two players in the latter stages and a format which saw them finish top of the Pool stages but edged out in the quarter-finals (with all eight teams progessing), an issue which should be addressed by the International Hockey Federation, the world governing body.
“It was obviously disappointing, but as a coach I am looking at the quality of play and I’ve been really encouraged by some of the hockey we produced during the tournament,” Crutchley said of the Champions Trophy performance.
"We want to win tournaments and be in the medal matches on a regular basis and working with this squad I believe that’s not too far away, but we need to win the key battles when tournaments reach the knock-out phase and we didn’t manage to do that this time around.”
Great Britain’s Olympic qualifiers for both sides will take place in Belgium and Spain in June. They will then revert back to England colours ahead of the EuroHockey Championships at Lee Valley in August.
HAPPY 91st BIRTHDAY! Congratulations!
BALBIR SINGH SENIOR , An Iconic Olympian (2012 London Olympics)
Triple Gold Olympian & Victorious Captain
1948 London Olympics- Independent India's 1st Olympic Gold
1952 Helsinki Olympics -created history, his world record unbroken even after 62 years
1956 Melbourne Olympics (Captain)
Based on exemplary achievements in World Hockey & contribution to indian Sports (Hockey) as a player, Captain, Coach, Manager, an Administrator and as a writer, The Government of Punjab has recommended his name for Bharat Ratna Award. I wish and pray our Government does justice to this all time great sports person of our independent India.
On 31st December, when the whole world celebrates New year eve, he too celebrates and this time - HIS 91st BIRTHDAY!
Another leaf added to your beautiful life Dad! Stay Blessed Always!!!
( Post by his daughter Sushbir )
Balbir Singh Sr. Facebook pages
Sikhs in Hockey
Our Sikh Hockey Olympians project comes to an end after 10 years. Thank you all for your contributions, support and encouragement.
The 2015 project is identifying the countries where Sikhs have played or coached hockey. We have identified 61 countries so far as follows:
Afghanistan; Argentina; Australia; Bangladesh; Barbados; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; Ceylon (now Sri Lanka); Chile; China; China Taipei; Cuba; Cyprus; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Dubai; Egypt; England; Fiji; Finland; France; Germany; Ghana; Greece; Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Iran; Italy; Japan; Kenya; Korea (Republic of); Malawi; Malaysia; Mexico; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nigeria; Pakistan; Palestine; Peru; Poland; Puerto Rico; Qatar; Rhodesia; Russia; Scotland; Singapore; South Africa; Spain; Sweden; Tanzania; Thailand; Trinidad; Uganda; USA; Venezuela; Wales; Zambia; Zanzibar and Zimbabwe.
Please do get in touch if you have information on any Country not listed above.