All the news for Sunday 22 December 2019
Indian men’s hockey at Tokyo 2020 : Know your opponents
Find out what India's hockey players are up against at the Olympics.
By Jay Lokegaonkar
SPAIN have qualified for every Summer Olympic Games since 1960
After 11 goals in two games against the Russians in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha, India booked their berth in the hockey tournament at Tokyo 2020.
Coach Graham Reid and his men will head to Japan aiming to win the nation's ninth gold-medal in the men's hockey tournament, four clear of the next best - the Netherlands with five.
The FIH recently announced the Pools and the fixture list for the hockey tournament at Tokyo 2020 and while the Indian men's hockey team will be confident of advancing to the knockouts, they do have to negotiate with a couple of tough fixtures and a two potentially tricky opponents.
Here, we take a look at the Indian men's hockey team's Pool stage opponents at Tokyo 2020.
Match date: July 26th 2020, Oi Hockey Stadium South Pitch
The 1976 Olympic champions, New Zealand, will be an interesting challenge for the Indian men’s hockey team in the opening match of their Tokyo 2020 campaign.
The Black Sticks are ranked ninth in the FIH standings and endured a below par campaign in the 2019 FIH Pro League. They failed to win a single match out of 14, losing all but three in the regulation time. They managed draws against Belgium, Spain, and Germany but were beaten in a shootout on all three occasions and finished bottom of the final standings.
The New Zealand side will be led by defender Blair Tarrant. The 29-year-old defender is one of the most experienced players in the Black Sticks' roster with over 200 appearances to his name. Midfielders Arun Panchia, Shea McAleese, Hugo Inglis, and Steve Edwards form a midfield quartet that boasts of over 1,000 appearances for the New Zealand men's national team amongst themselves.
Upfront, the Indian defence will be tasked with containing veteran Simon Child and Stephen Jenness, both of whom have been prolific scorers for the Black Sticks for the better part of the past decade.
Match date: July 26th 2020, Oi Hockey Stadium North Pitch
The Indian men’s hockey team’s biggest test of the pool stage will come against former four-time FIH World Cup winners and current world number one side Australia.
The Kookaburras will start as one of the pre-tournament favourites and will be expected to finish top of pool A. The six-time Commonwealth Games gold-medallists played 21 times in 2019 and won 16 matches.
They played India twice in 2019, winning both the fixtures comfortably. Last crowned Olympic champions at Athens 2004, the Australian side is laced with championship pedigree and have a roster stacked with some of the world’s best talents.
Among those are co-captains Aran Zalewski and veteran midfielder Eddie Ockenden, both of whom are nominated for the FIH Men’s Player of the Year.
Forwards Jacob Whetton and the goal-machine Blake Govers will be the Kookaburras biggest threats in attack whereas young defender Jake Harvie and the experienced Jeremy Hayward will try to keep the Indian forwards at bay.
Match date: 28th July 2020, Oi Hockey Stadium South Pitch
Two-time EuroHockey Championships winners Spain has featured in every Olympic Games since 1960, making it to the final three times, most recently at Beijing 2008 when they came up short against Germany for the gold medal.
The Redsticks have qualified for every Summer Olympic Games since 1960
The Redsticks won just two of their 14 matches in the 2019 FIH Pro League, which came against Australia and New Zealand - both of whom are also in pool A. While their results in 2019 were mostly underwhelming, they did score some notable wins over Argentina and Great Britain at home.
They played the Indian men’s hockey team twice in 2019 in Belgium and were beaten 1-6 and 1-5. The two sides will meet another couple of times before the Olympics, as they are scheduled to play each other in the 2020 FIH Pro League in June.
Match date: 30th July 2020, Oi Hockey Stadium North Pitch
India’s second-biggest test of the pool stage will be against world number four and reigning Olympic champions Argentina. The South Americans shocked the world at Rio 2016 and will be aiming to retain their title at Tokyo 2020.
The Argentina men’s hockey team will be aiming to defend their Olympic crown at Tokyo 2020
Los Leones won six and lost five of their 14 matches in the 2019 FIH Pro League and had a rather rocky finish to the year, losing to Spain and Belgium in a series of Test matches.
However, the Argentines remain a dangerous side owing to a star-studded talent pool that is led by captain Pedro Ibarra and defender Gonzalo Peillat.
Veteran forward Lucas Vila had a fantastic year in 2019 and is one of the nominees for the FIH Men’s Player of the Year. The big-game experience of defenders Juan Lopez, Matias Rey and midfielders Ignacio Ortiz, Lucas Rossi will come in handy for Los Leones at the Olympics.
Match date: 31st July 2020, Oi Hockey Stadium North Pitch
Host nation Japan will be making their first appearance at the Olympics after 52 years and will be the underdogs in pool A.
Reigning Asian Games hockey gold-medallists Japan will be making their return to the Summer Olympic Games after 52 years
However, the Samurai side have shown that they have the credentials to mix it with the best: beating Pakistan and Malaysia on their way to winning gold at the Asian Games last year.
Despite their recent rise, India will be confident of picking up a victory against Japan, having beaten them three times in 2019 by an aggregate of 15-5.
The top four sides from each pool will qualify for the quarter finals, scheduled for Sunday 2nd August.
The semi-finals of the competition will be played on Tuesday 4th August before the bronze medal and gold medal matches on Thursday 6th August 2020.
The Olympic Channel
Hockey's THT banking on new coach to wrest titles
By K.M. Boopathy
UniKL’s Ashran Hamsani (left) and THT’s Fitri Saari with the MHL Charity Shield at yesterday’s press conference at National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. -NSTP/K.M. Boopathy
Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) hope to regain their status as the kings of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) under the guidance of newly-appointed coach K. Dharmaraj.
Dharmaraj, whose contract as the national women’s coach was not extended by the Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) last week, has been handed the task to help THT wrest the MHL Premier Division title from Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and the TNB Cup from Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) next year.
The MHL starts with the Charity Shield clash between THT and UniKL on Jan 10.
“Dharmaraj has come on board as our new coach and we want him to re-capture the league and TNB Cup next season,” said Terengganu Hockey Association secretary Rashidi Hashim at National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
“We are depending on his experience to lift THT.
THT won the MHL titles between 2014-16 under former coach Sarjit Singh.
The other teams in contention for titles next season are defending champions UniKL and TNB.
THT’s Fitri Saari predicts a tough season as his side will have only four foreign signings for the new season.
South Koreans Jang Jong Hyun and Jung Man Jae, along with Pakistan’s Shakeel Abbasi and Umar Bhutta are THT’s foreign signings. Last season, THT hired six foreign players.
“Faizal (Saari) and Hafizuddin (Othman) have played under Dharmaraj before while the others will have to adapt to his training and tactics before the season starts,” said Fitri.
Maybank, TNB Thunderbolts, Nur Insafi, UiTM and newcomers Hockademy make up the eight teams in the men’s competition.
Only six teams will compete for honours in the women’s section.
The season will end with the TNB Cup final on Feb 29.
New Straits Times
Dharmaraj back in business ‑ of being a hockey coach
KUALA LUMPUR: There’s new purpose now for hockey coach K. Dharmaraj. Reigning overall champions Terengganu have hired him to guide them in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), which begins on Jan 10.
The task of the national women’s coach, whose contract expires in nine days, is to help the East coast team bag the double – league and overall titles.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) have decided not to extend the contracts of six coaches except for national chief coach Roelant Oltmans.
MHC want to form a new set-up of national coaches by March 1 based on the coaches’ performances in the MHL.
Dharmaraj, who guided the Malaysian women’s indoor team to gold in the recent SEA Games in the Philippines, was without a job and a team to coach in the MHL.
Until Terengganu came along.
Terengganu Hockey Association secretary Mohd Rashidi Hashim said that they are happy to hire Dharmaraj due to his vast experience in coaching clubs and also the national teams.
“He has a proven track record. And he is a dedicated coach, who always helps a team to perform to their best in tournaments.
“We are confident Dharmaraj will be able to guide Terengganu to bag both the league and overall titles,” said Rashidi.
The Melaka-born coach was in charge of the KL Hockey Club (KLHC) for more than a decade, helping them win several silverware in the MHL.
He also guided the national junior team to finish a creditable fourth in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi in 2013 and took the national women’s team’s to No. 20 in the world.
Terengganu will be powered by four foreign players, two South Koreans and two Pakistanis, to beef up the team for the 2020 season.
The South Koreans are penalty corner specialist Jang Jong-hyun, who was top scorer in the MHL this season (2019) with 22 goals and Jung Man-jae while the Pakistanis are Shakeel Abbasi and Umar Bhutta.
The East Coast team will also have the services of four national players – the Saari brothers forward Faizal and midfielder Fitri – goalkeeper Mohd Hafizuddin Othman and defender Luqman Nul Hakim Ahmad Shukaran.
Terengganu, who finished third in the MHL this season, edged league champions Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) 2-1 in the final for the overall title in March.
Terengganu will take on UniKL in the Charity Shield match on Jan 10.
The Star of Malaysia
2019 Year in review: Familiar routine marks the hockey scene
By AGNES MAKHANDIA
Strathmore University Scorpions' forward Gilly Okumu (left) celebrates her goal against JKUAT with teammates during their Kenya Hockey Union women's Premier League match on March 3, 2019 at the City Park Stadium in Nairobi. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP
The more things change in Kenya, the more they remain the same.
In the only international hockey championship that Kenyan teams featured in - the African Olympic qualifiers held in South Africa in August - the women’s and men’s national teams were a pale shadow of themselves.
The men who were hoping to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for the first time since the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, finished a distant fifth.
South Africa won the title, Egypt were second followed by Ghana and Zimbabwe finished fourth. Namibia were last in the competition.
During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games African qualifier, Kenya finished third behind Egypt and winners South Africa.
In the August Olympic qualifier, the women’s national team settled for fourth position. South Africa won the championship, followed by Ghana, Zimbabwe were third and Namibia were at the bottom.
LOST TO ZIMBABWE
South Africa, Egypt, and to some degree Ghana, have remained Kenya’s bitter rivals. Their wins against the Kenyan teams in the qualifier came as no surprise. But the loss against Zimbabwe was a slap on the face for Kenyans.
The men's team has had a regular coach, Meshack Senge, for a lengthy period of time. However, the women’s outfit has kept changing tacticians with the latest being Tom Olal, who took over from Willis Otieno during the qualifiers. That being the case, none of the teams sparkled.
Senge picked a young squad for the qualifier and overlooked most of the experienced players in a move that sparked grumbling.
He said: "There is complacency among the older players. It is better to go for the young and ambitious players since it’s that strong mental frame and confidence that I give the players as a coach.”
“Experience is what you can do on the pitch and some of the first caps have in the past done amazingly well,” explained Senge, adding that the youngsters in the team had the passion and desire to perform well.
While there was nothing to show as far as the national teams’ performance was concerned, the clubs didn't do much either.
Clubs that had qualified for this year’s African Cup for Club Championship held in Egypt pulled out of the event citing financial challenges.
Men’s Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) Premier League champions Butali Sugar Warriors and Kenya Police as well as Blazers, formerly Telkom, and Strathmore University (women) did not honour the championship due to financial problems.
Blazers’ title sponsors Telkom withdrew their support in June, and their effort to get a replacement before the continental championship didn’t yield fruit. As a result, they were unable to defend their title.
The failure by Kenyan teams to feature in the club championships, and especially those held outside the country, has become a norm.
KHU Chairman Nashon Randiek expressed dissatisfaction with the turn of events.
"It can never be business as usual. Who doesn’t know that every top two clubs in each gender in the Premier League have the automatic qualification to feature in the club championship? Therefore, it is sad that clubs frequently give excuses of financial constraints,” he said.
“In future we would like clubs to give feedback well ahead of time if they will not be in a position to participate in the event so that we can give a chance to other teams that are willing and ready to take part.
Kenya Hockey Union President Nahashon Randiek arrives at the City Park Stadium on August 10, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Butali retained the Premier League title unbeaten with 48 points from 18 matches, as Wazalendo defied odds to finish second ahead of Police with 36 points from the same number of matches.
Kenya Police captain Oliver Echenje (left) vies for the ball with Butali's Francis Kariuki during their Kenya Hockey Union Men's Premier League match at City Park, Nairobi on April 20, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |
Wazalendo coach Fidhelis Kimanzi said they will go out of their way to ensure the team participates in next year's club championship having last played in the event in 2007.
NAIROBI SIKH RELEGATED
Blazers, who have won the women’s Premier League for a record 22 times, booked a ticket for the 2020 club championship. They topped the league with 38 points from 14 matches played.
The other qualifier for the next year’s club championship were United States International University of Africa (USIU-A) who finished second in the league with 29 points.
USIU-A's Florence Karanja (left) vies for the ball with Mariam Suleiman of Strathmore University during their Hockey Premier League match at City Park Stadium, Nairobi on October 27, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |
However, one of the pioneer clubs Nairobi Sikh men's team suffered a setback when they were relegated to the Super League after finishing second last in the Premier League.
The team had nine points and they managed only one win. Parklands, which finished last with seven points, was also dropped.
On the flip side, Parkroad Badgers and Mombasa Sports Club earned promotion to the Premier League.
In the women’s category, Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University Agricultural Technology (JKUAT) were relegated to the second division, while DFG Wolverines and Oranje Leonas will start life in the top-tier next season.