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News for 30 December 2017

All the news for Saturday 30 December 2017

12 Months of What Could Have Been for Indian Hockey

Pratik Sagar

Indian Hockey Team celebrate their Bronze Medal (Image: Hockey India/Twitter)

Year after year, the Indian hockey stars try ever so hard to punch above their weight against their illustrious world opponents and 2017 was no different. However, the past 12 months can be seen as a season of major ups and downs for both men’s and women’s team on the field, while there were some big upheavals in the management as well.

The men’s team showed glimpses of brilliance throughout the year in every major tournament that they participated in, but fell short time and time again by some distance. Although, the Blue Brigade clinched podium finishes at three major events in 2017, their love affair with bronze medal continued. The team still couldn’t find the answer to what is stopping them from making that final leap that would turn them into the groom from being the perennial bridesmaid.

India started the year by receiving a double whammy at the prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia. Coach Roelant Oltmans’ troops were touted as heavy favourites to land the title but they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the hosts in semis and eventually had to settle for bronze.

Moreover, skipper and talisman PR Sreejesh tore his ACL during the course of the tournament and hasn’t featured in the line-up since. A tournament that began with Mandeep Singh and Harmanpreet Singh lighting up the competition with their sizzling goals, ended in despair for India.

With Hockey World League semi-final in London fast approaching, the Indian think tank were forced to chop and change due to regular skipper Sreejesh’s injury. Manpreet Singh was handed the responsibility of leading the side while goalkeepers Akash Chikte and Suraj Kerkera filled in between the posts.

However, things didn’t go as per plan as inconsistency and profligacy in front of the goal meant India finished a lowly sixth in the competition. The Indian team were first shocked by Malaysia in the quarterfinal and then Canada made it even worse for India by beating them in the 5th-6th place play-off tie.

The damning defeats at the hands of lower-ranked sides proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Oltmans, who was shown the door in the aftermath of India’s performance in London. And by doing so, India had sacked its 23rd men's hockey coach in as many years.

Dutchman Sjoerd Marinje was handed over the reins of the men’s team and Junior Hockey World Cup winning coach Harendra Singh replaced him as the women’s national team coach. The move to do so immediately bore fruit as both men’s and women’s team won the Asia Cup under their respective new coaches.

Riding on the excellence of young players, India lifted their third title and reclaimed Asian supremacy after 13 years. Harmanpreet continued his good personal goal scoring form as he ended the tournament with seven strikes. While as for the women’s team, their Asia Cup victory helped them enter the Top-10 in world rankings and also seal a place at the World Cup in London next year.

The men’s team then ended the season with another bronze - this time at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar. In the group stage, India pulled off a stunning draw against Australia but succumbed to big losses against England and Germany respectively, to finish at the bottom.

The poor show in group stage meant India had to lock horns with Belgium in the quarters and looking at the past record between the two, the result was all but known. However, the hosts sprung a massive surprise as they stunned the Rio Olympic silver-medallist in the shoot-out to progress into the last four.

Olympic gold medallist Argentina finally ended India’s journey as they edged Marinje’s brave men 1-0 in the semis. India then caused the second upset of the tournament when they thumped an injury-torn Germany 2-1 to clinch the bronze medal in front of roaring home support.

But by no means the year 2017 can be termed as a success for Indian hockey but it will be known as a season of what could have been for a sport which boasts of such rich history. While letting go of Oltmans, Harbinder Singh, the chairman of Hockey India’s selection committee had said: “Asia can’t be a benchmark for success any more”.

But as 2017 comes to a close, Asian supremacy is all that we have got!


Medals in Tow

For students it’s one of the best feelings in the world - the final bell rings to signal the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. For some, that means fun in the sun, campfires and road trips. For Amardeep Khokhar and Erin Matson it was about crisp passes, studying film and being part of Team USA history.

Both the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams are coming off historic campaigns having won medals in multiple International Hockey Federation (FIH) sanctioned events this past summer. The USMNT clinched a pair of bronze medals at the FIH Hockey World League Round 2 in Tacarigua, Trinidad and Tobago in April and the men’s Pan American Cup (PAC) in Lancaster, Pa. in August. Meanwhile, the USWNT claimed gold at the Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, South Africa in July, as well as bronze at women’s PAC in August.

Two medals each now hang freshly in the rooms of Khokhar, 18, and Matson, 17, highlighting valiant career starts. Individually, the pair are helping define the next generation of United States field hockey players.

“I am extremely proud to be a part of a team that was able to be so successful in both tournaments,” said Khokhar, a Valencia, Calif. native. “We trained multiple hours and to see all of that effort result in two bronze medals is the most rewarding feelings I have ever had. It also gets me excited because we are a young and upcoming team with a lot to prove. However, these last two tournaments showed everyone what we are capable of.”

Khokhar was introduced to the sport at a young age in the Golden State. Quickly falling in love after a local tournament and league play in Moorpark, Calif., Khokhar plunged in to the annual California Cup where the goal to become a prime field hockey player began to sprout. Watching various USMNT members train at Moorpark College only fueled his present day rise to the USMNT. The young striker played for the Simi Valley Wizards. As a teenager with the Ventura County Red Devils, it was the first step in entering the Olympic Development Pipeline and eventually the U.S. U-18 Men's National Development Squad while still enjoying life at Valencia High School, all leading up to earning his first cap against Canada prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“I remember being extremely nervous playing my first game,” recalled Khokhar. “I was only thinking about how I was going to play against previous Olympians and a team going to the Olympic Games. Although I was tense before the game, my anxiousness faded during play and I ended up having a fun time.”

Similar nerves surfaced this summer at FIH Hockey World League Round 2 and in the men’s Pan American Cup. Khokhar recalled being more at ease during the latter, but the added excitement playing on a national pitch helped make it a memorable summer in preparation for hitting the books as a freshman at the University of Southern California. He plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus in finance while continuing international play with the USMNT.

Above all, his father remains his greatest influence and inspiration.

Matson’s humble beginnings to the sport mirror that of Khokhar on the other side of the country. Currently a senior at Unionville High School, the Pennsylvania native picked up field hockey and fell in love as soon as she held a stick at age six. 

A product of the Olympic Development Pipeline as well, Matson sparked her National Team career with the Field Hockey Fanatix club team before transitioning to the Typhoon Hockey Club and eventually WC Eagles at nine years old. The WC Eagles quickly became a second home as Matson's first international experience took her to China and New Zealand. A member of the U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team at 13, and the U.S. U-19 and U-21 Women's National Teams a short time later, the call to join the USWNT is arguably one of the best moments of the young midfielder’s career.

“I was in San Diego with the U-21 team at the time,” commented Matson commented. “After Janneke [Schopman] and Phil [Edwards] pulled me aside to say that I would be traveling with the USWNT to New Zealand, I called my parents to tell them the news. We were all crying on the phone, and it was one of those phone calls you never forget. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, and it was a wonderful day when I heard the news.

“Playing at this level and being a part of this team has always been my dream, and it is an amazing day when what you’ve been working for finally comes," continued Matson. "It really does show you that you can get to where you want to be if you work hard and are determined.”

All the while, balancing life as a high schooler, homework and academics is a feat in of itself especially during the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals, where an online course kept her plenty busy off the pitch en-route to helping the USWNT clinch gold and a spot at the Final in November. It comes as second nature though according to Matson, as she looks forward to senior prom and graduation while studying film and practicing with the rest of Team USA.

“Ever since I was young, I looked up to some of the players I now call teammates,” added Matson. “I still have posters of the Beijing and Rio teams in the area where I practice my skills at home, and sometimes I think how lucky I am to be playing alongside some of these women.”

Like Khokhar, that life balance is sure to continue in the coming years as Matson anticipates college life at the University of North Carolina, and standing proud as the Star Spangled Banner plays wearing Carolina Blue and red, white and blue between classes.

Whether its on the pitch or continuing education, the two are living aspirations for many in the USA Field Hockey Futures Program, Olympic Development Pipeline and beyond. Both admit it takes more than just hard work and determination to make to be a part of Team USA.

“My advice would be to never stop playing," said Khokhar. "Play hockey wherever you can. Whether it’s at the pitch, in your backyard, or even on the carpet in your room, constantly try to be better than you were yesterday.”

“Some people might say I’ve missed out on some things, but the way I look at it, I’ve gained all of these great experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy,” chimed Matson. “Also, putting in the extra time and doing the work on your own to outwork everybody else is necessary to be the best. If you truly do have a goal in mind that you are determined to reach, you will get there. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.”

This article is featured in the Fall 2017 issue of FHLife Magazine. To read more inspiring, knowledge-packed and fun features revolving around hockey, fitness, healthy eating and how to strengthen your game, subscribe to our quarterly publication or to order additional copies, clicking here.

This holiday season, USA Field Hockey's is offering everyone a free digital version of the most recent issue of FHLife Magazine. Typically an exclusive member benefit, this is the only magazine in the United States dedicated to the sport of field hockey.

USFHA media release

2018 Junior U.S. Women’s National Teams Announced Following STX Select

LANCASTER, Pa. - Four days of practice-skill sessions, team meetings and competition stood between 67 athletes who attended the STX Select event and their name on the final roster. The Junior U.S. Women’s National Team coaching staff evaluated all athletes during each session and match, and are pleased to name the 2018 U.S. U-17 and U-19 Women’s National Teams.

STX Select took place from December 26-29, 2017 at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, Pa. It was compromised of the top women’s junior athletes in the country who were selected to attend based on their performance at this summer’s Junior National Camp.

USA Field Hockey would like to congratulate the following athletes!

2018 U.S. U-17 Women's National Team

Sarah Beers | Fleetwood, Pa.
Kaitlyn Benton | Lansdale, Pa.
Emily Berlinghof | Huntington, N.Y.
Hailey Bitters | Delmar, Md.
Leanne Bough | Whitney Point, N.Y.
Isabella Bressler | Leesport, Pa.
Margo Carlin | Drexel Hill, Pa.
Anna Castaldo | Endicott, N.Y.
Bethany Dykema | Newport News, Va.
Megan Frost | Charlotte, N.C.
Lee Ann Gordon | Louisville, Ky.
Peyton Halsey | Reading, Pa.
Kara Heck | Berlin, N.J.
Adele Iacobucci | Malvern, Pa.
Madison Kahn | Voorhees, N.J.
Margot Lawn | Pasadena, Md.
Caylie McMahon | Stow, Mass.
Hannah Miller | Malvern, Pa.
Alexandra Morgan | Winnetka, Ill.
Kelsey Reznick | Drums, Pa.
Hope Rose | Dauphin, Pa.
Annabel Skubisz | Houston, Texas
Josie Varney | Smithfield, Maine
Madeleine Zimmer | Hershey, Pa.

*Retrial in January: Makenna Webster | St. Louis, Mo.

2018 U.S. U-19 Women's National Team

Mackenzie Allessie | Mount Joy, Pa.
Gabrielle Barraco | Allentown, Pa.
Kayla Blas | Pendleton, N.Y.
Leah Crouse | Virginia Beach, Va.
Charlotte De Vries | Wayne, Pa.
Emma Deberdine | Millersville, Pa.
Lindsay Dickinson | Glen Mills, Pa.
Greer Gill | Virginia Beach, Va.
Kyler Greenwalt | Gambrills, Md.
Katie Jean | Mount Joy, Pa.
Katherine McGuire | St. Louis, Mo.
Marykate Neff | Villanova, Pa.
Kathryn Peterson | San Diego, Calif.
Megan Rodgers | San Diego, Calif.
Meghan Schneider | San Diego, Calif.
Peyton Tollasken | Chesapeake, Va.
M. Grace Wallis | Blue Bell, Pa.
Brynn Zorilla | Vista, Calif.

* Alternates: Riley Fulmer | Chapel Hill, N.C. & Caroline McGovern | Churchville, Pa.
* Medical Retrial in January: Ali McCarthy | Madison, N.J. & Kaylie Mings | Bellaire, Texas

Alternates will be invited to the January training camp.
Medical Retrial and Retrial athletes will be invited to the January training camp.

USFHA media release

Punjab Police beat EME, enter semis

Nabha - Punjab Police outclassed defending champion EME Jalandhar with a solitary goal in the quarterfinals of the 42nd GS Bains Liberals All India Hockey Tournament.

Punjab Police initiated a move from the centre line in the 47th minute and forward Sarbjit took the possession of the ball on the top of the circle to surprise the EME defence.

SAI Kurukshetra came from behind to enter the semifinals by defeating ITBP 2-1. ITBP took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute with a goal from Jaswinder Singh but the Kurukshetra boys hit back with a goal in the 27th minute through skipper Rahul (1-1). Vishal sealed the victory for ITBP (2-1) in the 62nd minute.

Hawks Rupnagar also made it to the semifinals with a 3-2 win over PSPCL Patiala. Hawks scored through skipper Harpreet Singh (18th min), Ranjit Singh (21st min) and Jaswinder Singh (48th min). Akash of PSPCL reduced Hawks’ lead to 1-2 with a strike in the 47th minute. The Rupnagar team will next face Punjab Police, Jalandhar, for a place in the final.

Indian Overseas Bank lost to Corps of Signal, Jalandhar, 1-4 in a one-sided affair. The Signals team scored through Amritpal Singh in 38th minute. Raman Singh scored two goals (41st min and 58th min) to swell the lead. Vinod Rayer scored the lone goal (51st min) for Indian Overseas Bank. Sunil Lakra rounded off the tally (4-1) with a goal in the 61st minute.

The Tribune

Gonzo over Gonzalo

By Aftar Singh

An Olympic hero: Peillat Gonzalo helped Argentina to their first-ever hockey gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics by netting 11 goals to emerge as the top scorer.

KUALA LUMPUR: Terengganu, powered by penalty corner specialist Gonzalo Peillat, will be the team to beat in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

The East Coast team have hired the 25-year-old Argentine – dubbed the world’s greatest penalty corner drag flicker – to beef up their challenge when the season begins next month.

The defender helped Argentina to their first-ever hockey gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics by netting 11 goals to emerge as the top scorer.

Terengganu coach Sarjit Singh said they were happy to engage his services.

“Peillat is not only expected to deliver goals from penalty corners but he’ll marshall the defence too,” said Sarjit.

Peillat is one of Terengganu’s six imports.

They have also hired three more Argentines – forward Guido Martin Barreiros and midfielders Pablo Javier Trevisan, Joaquin Menini. The others are defenders Moritz Ershad (Germany) and Ammad Shakeel Butt (Pakistan).

Terengganu will also have the services of three national players – goalkeeper Mohd Hafizuddin Othman and the Saari brothers – Mohd Fitri (midfielder) and Faizal (forward).

Peillat is also expected to play in the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup quarter-final match on Jan 4, a day after his arrival.

Defending champions Terengganu have received a first-round bye in the knockout tournament that will pit 15 teams from the Premier Division and Division One.

Terengganu are down to play either Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) or RMAF Rajawali in the quarter-finals.

There are four titles at stake in the MHL – Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup, Charity Shield, league and the TNB Cup.

This year, Terengganu won the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup by defeating Maybank 5-3 in the final.

They also won the TNB Cup when they edged Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) 5-4 in a penalty shootout after both teams failed to break the 4-4 deadlock in regulation time.

Sarjit, who has helped Terengganu bag the double – the league and TNB Cup – several times, said they can expect a strong challenge from KLHC and UniKL this time.

“We will be happy if we can win one of the four titles,” he said.

The Star of Malaysia

Maybank Tigers look fierce enough for one silverware

KUALA LUMPUR: The Maybank Tigers are eyeing a roaring start to the new year when the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) gets underway.

Maybank, who have featured in the MHL since its inception in 1987, last won the title in 1994.

Maybank started their preparations at their base in Bangi since Dec 11 and are hoping for better fortunes.

The squad are helmed by head coach Saiful Azli Abdul Rahman and his assistant K. Gobinathan, who are both former internationals.

The Tigers have roped in six foreigners in their quest to win one of four titles at stake – the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup, Charity Shield, League and TNB Cup.

Among them are four Australians – goalkeeper Leon Hayward Kayne, forward Oscar William Allan and midfielders Oscar William Wookey and Joshua Bretherton.

They have also secured the services of Pakistani striker Muhammad Azfar Yaqoo and Argentinian defender Federico Bertoni.

Saiful said they hope to win at least one silverware.

“I believe we are capable of doing that. The team are shaping up well and the foreign players will be joining us soon,” said Saiful.

In this year’s MHL, the Tigers, powered by six foreign players, did exceptionally well in the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup by reaching the final before losing 5-3 to Terengganu.

However, they failed to continue the momentum in the Premier Division as they ended fifth in the eight-team league.

Six teams will feature in the top division next season. The others are league champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC), TNB Cup champions Terengganu, Tenaga Nasional, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and TNB-Thunderbolt.

Maybank will open their campaign against Tenaga Nasional in the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Jan 3.

The Star of Malaysia

Habib Public School ends tour with Match against Dar Academy

By Ijaz Chaudhry

Karachi's Habib Public School carries a great hockey legacy. The prestigious school has given numerous players to Pakistan hockey including great names- Hassan Sardar, Sohail Abbas, and Kamran Ashraf to name a few.

In order to groom young players,the school team has been making an annual training tour during the winter break every year since 2013. The team visits different cities of Pakistan to play against the best local academies.

This time, Habib Public School played a match each in no less than seven cities.

After the fixtures at Hyderabad and Sukkur, the contingent crossed over to the Punjab.

Here, the first port of call was Sadiqabad, followed by Bahawalpur.

Next assignments were at Pir Mahal and Gojra. These two tiny tehsils of district Toba Tek Singh are among the biggest hockey nurseries of Pakistan.

The Karachi boys ended the whirlwind tour with a match against the Dar Hockey Academy at National Hockey Stadium, Lahore.

Habib Public School's coach Shakir Ali termed the tour a big success, "the boys learnt a lot playing against very strong sides. At many places, there were big crowds; over three thousand turned up at Pir Mahal. It was also a great experience to play at world's biggest hockey stadium in Lahore".

Ijaz Chaudhry writes on hockey & other sports. For more about him and his work, visit: www.sportscorrespondent.info  


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