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News for 12 July 2020

All the news for Sunday 12 July 2020

India skipper Manpreet Singh says back-to-back Pro League hockey matches will help team gain momentum for Olympics

India skipper Manpreet Singh says back-to-back Pro League hockey matches will help team gain momentum for Olympics

Indian men's hockey team skipper Manpreet Singh is delighted with the revised schedule for FIH Pro League, saying back-to-back matches next year will help them gain the "right kind of momentum" ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The Indian team will resume its Pro League campaign in April with an away tie against Argentina, according to a revised fixtures announced by the International Hockey Federation on Thursday.

"I feel after the four-week gap between our matches against Argentina and Great Britain, we will play back-to-back matches almost every weekend right until the end of May and that's the kind of momentum we are looking for ahead of the Olympic Games," Manpreet said.

"We will test our body and mind during this time to see how we can cope up with the pressure of playing back-to-back high-intensity games and manage the load. This will be an ideal test for us before the Olympics," he said.

To start with, India will play Argentina on 10 and 11 April .

India will then face Great Britain away from home on May 8 and 9 before travelling to Spain to play matches on 12 and 13 May. The team will take on Germany in away matches on 18 and 19 May before finally playing a home tie on 29 and 30 May against New Zealand.

Chief coach Graham Reid too said tough competition against top nations will help his team prepare well for the Olympics.

"It's very encouraging to have international competition restarting and the Hockey Pro League will give us that tough top level competition in the lead-up to the Olympic Games next year," he said.

"We are also working at the moment to ensure that we have enough competition throughout the latter part of 2020 and the early part of 2021.

"We have the Asian Champions Trophy still planned for November 2020 and a trip to Malaysia to play the Netherlands and a 4 Nations Tournament in New Zealand in February 2021 which are all in the planning stage at the moment as part of our ACTC."

Manpreet said the scheduling provides enough time for the team to prepare for a major event like the Pro League.

"We were delighted by the news of a revised schedule for Hockey Pro League. With the rise in number of cases in India, it may take a while before travel restrictions are lifted for International competition," he said.

"Our travel this year for any tournaments will purely depend on the Government guidelines, so under these circumstances, we need to be sensitive towards what's happening around us and channel our focus on preparation. We will use this time to revisit our goals and areas that we need to improve."

Manpreet further said that the weather in Europe in April and May would suit the Indian team.

"Also I think the weather in Europe in April and May would be ideal for us as the winter months would have ended. April in Argentina is also supposed to have the best weather to play hockey and it won't be hot and humid," reckoned the midfielder.

The Indian team had made an emphatic start to its maiden Hockey Pro League campaign earlier this year with a 5-2 and 3-3 (3-1) win against the Netherlands followed by a 2-1 victory and 3-4 loss against world champions Belgium and a 3-4 loss and 2-2 (3-1) win against Australia before the COVID-19 pandemic halted all sporting events.


Way forward after COVID-19: Looking at Hockey 5s on a full pitch

Hockey India insists it is better to be prepared for the future than try and play catch-up later on.

Uthra Ganesan

Indian women hockey team’s goalkeepers Savita Punia (left) and Rajani Etimarpu during a training session. “Using Google Docs for wellness data submission and Google Forms for training load submissions have become mandatory to update what we had done during the day and this would further be discussed through video call,” explained Savita.

The full import of COVID-19 hit India only by the end of March this year. Less than a month later, April 11 to be precise, Hockey India sought approval for its training and operational guidelines in these uncertain times.

The federation was among the first sporting bodies in the country to formalise its plans and compile a way ahead in terms of precautions and preventions during training and competition. Its 20-page Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document includes guidelines not just for the elite national teams, but also domestic events across the country with clearly defined roles for the organisers, state associations and the players.

These include mandatory use of the Aarogya Setu app by all players, officials and staff at any event and minimal use of common areas to avoid non-essential interaction between players. While international hockey would depend on the FIH and other member nations agreeing to the conditional restart of competitions and resumption of international travel, there is no confirmation on when domestic competitions might resume either. The national championships across genders and age groups have all been pushed to 2021 and the Bengaluru Super Division Championships, scheduled from August 17, remains uncertain.

As and when tournaments do resume, however, it would be a different normal for everyone involved. Hockey India doesn’t expect things to go back to pre-COVID norms for at least another 18 months, making the current model a long-term prospect. Some of the essentials for resumption of activity includes state-specific risk assessment and adherence to respective state-government advisories, educating all stakeholders about social distancing, individual and group hygiene, kitting up before reaching the venue to minimise social interaction, facility to treat and isolate anyone symptomatic, temperature checks and review of status on Aarogya Setu before allowing turf access.

Hockey India has also suggested that “ideally to start with organisers should look at Hockey 5s on a full pitch”, “ideally arrange seats so that participants and spectators are at least one metre apart”, “spectator seating should be arranged in a way that there’s one-metre distance between each spectator” and “open windows and doors whenever possible to make sure the venue is well ventilated.”

Most of these are precautionary, since any competition at the moment remains highly unlikely. But Hockey India insists it is better to be prepared for the future than try and play catch-up later on. “It is pertinent to produce comprehensive protocols dictating sanitary and operational conditions ensuring that the health of those involved in any hockey events is protected and the integrity of public policy is preserved. It’s a matter again of looking at the risks and deciding if we can make them low enough to be acceptable.

The new normal: “Even though our support staff is based in the same campus, we use video calls for individual meetings where we discuss our nutrition intake, match analysis, etc., since a physical meeting is not possible anymore,” says Harmanpreet Singh.

“Although there is no published experiential data specific to planning and implementing a mass gathering post the COVID-19 outbreak, arrangements must be in place to ensure regular communication between organisers and local public health authorities. This SOP and any subsequent guidelines issued from time to time provide recommendations to Member Units to help them try and keep the future training and events virus free as much as possible,” the federation makes it clear.

What is certain is that the elite national campers would have to live with them even during training. When the men’s and women’s probables finally dispersed for a month-long break recently, after being stuck at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru for three and four months respectively, they did so with strict instructions on maintaining the protocols, including quarantine.

“The players have been specifically briefed that they need to adhere to government guidelines during this break and continue to follow social distancing. We are very proud of how our players have handled this situation over the last 3-4 months and have stayed strong as a unit. It is important they continue to act responsibly during this break,” HI president Mushtaque Ahmad said. The hockey players got on to the turf for the first time since lockdown on June 1. When they reassemble on July 19, they are likely to follow the same protocol in Bengaluru as their homes — a strict quarantine in the hostels — before resuming training. Already the players have included using sanitisers during every break and sticking to their own water bottles and gear in their routines. The norms of social distancing and training in small groups over a large area would be followed in the near future as well.

The teams are also likely to continue with social distancing and manage their daily briefings through individual and team video chats. “Using Google Docs for wellness data submission and Google Forms for training load submissions have become mandatory to update what we had done during the day and this would further be discussed through video call,” explained goalkeeper Savita Punia. “Even though our support staff is based in the same campus, we use video calls for individual meetings where we discuss our nutrition intake, match analysis etc since a physical meeting is not possible anymore,” added Harmanpreet Singh.

With the Olympics scheduled for next year but no clarity on resumption of international competitions, the players understand they need to work at an individual level to stay focused. “Over the next few months, each of us have a plan and a target to improve on our individual game,” captain Manpreet Singh added.


MHC to reveal new coach for women's team on Monday

By Jugjet Singh

MHC president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal during a recent press conference at th National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. BERNAMA PIC

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) on Saturday finally decided on their new women's senior coach, but are not ready to name the candidate yet.

A press conference will be held on Monday to reveal the mystery man or woman.

"We had a coaching committee meeting today (Saturday) and decided on the women's senior coach, but we can't reveal a name yet.

"An official announcement will be made on Monday," said MHC deputy president Datuk S. Shamala.

The hunt started in January after former coach K. Dharmaraj decided not to re-apply for his position.

In December, the MHC, headed by Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal, decided not to automatically renew the contracts of six coaches but retained the services of Dutchman Roelant Oltmans.

The contracts of Dharmaraj, Stephen van Huizen, Nor Saiful Zaini, Nasihin Nubli, Lailin Abu Hassan and Megat Azrafiq had expired and they were asked to re-apply.

However, Dharmaraj left for Indonesia instead, while Van Huizen and Nor Saiful Zaini decided not to apply. The other coaches were re-hired by the MHC.

The MHC had received 23 applications (11 locals and 12 foreigners) for Dharmaraj's position.

However, the MHC could not interview the foreign candidates face-to-face due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some foreign candidates could not commit as they are coaching teams that have qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics.

A local will likely be appointed to coach the women's team.

The senior women's team have no tournaments this year.

New Straits Times

Banbridge put appeal to Hockey Ireland on hold after latest twist in European affair

John Flack

Banbridge are delaying a proposed appeal to Hockey Ireland concerning the allocation of European places for next year as they bid to secure one of the two on offer.

It's rumoured that the sport's national governing body could step in and attempt to resolve the situation, thus possibly negating the need for any further appeals after Lisnagarvey were awarded the No.1 seeding.

The Hillsborough club were initially ranked second behind Three Rock Rovers, who were handed a place in the more prestigious European Hockey League next year.

Those places were allocated on the basis of the last completed season in 2018-19 with the recent campaign being declared null and void due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Garvey were looking destined to lift the title as they were five points clear at the top of the table with two games in hand when the season fell victim to the virus.

They lodged an appeal on that basis, believing that they should have been awarded the top seeding, and had it upheld by an independent panel.

In light of that decision, Banbridge felt they should be entitled to the second place in Europe as they were the nearest team to Garvey in the standings when the season was voided.

However, Three Rock retained the second seeding they had been handed in the original Hockey Ireland ruling before Garvey's appeal was successful, despite the fact that they were sitting in fourth place in the table before the Irish Hockey League was abandoned in March due to the pandemic.

Following the appeal being upheld by the three-person independent panel, Hockey Ireland revealed in a brief statement yesterday that they had noted the decision in favour of Lisnagarvey.

Chief executive Jerome Pels said: "The board of Hockey Ireland is taking notice of the Appeal Panel decision and considering if any further action or decisions are needed."

Belfast Telegraph

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