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News for 17 February 2020

All the news for Monday 17 February 2020

2020 FIH Pro League (Men) - 17 February

15 Feb 2020     NZL v ESP (RR)       1 - 4
15 Feb 2020     ARG v NED (RR)      2 - 2 (1 - 3 SO)
16 Feb 2020     NZL v ESP (RR)       3 - 2
16 Feb 2020    ARG v NED (RR)     2 - 2 (3 - 4 SO)

Live streaming and full game replay on https://fih.live (May be Geo blocked if there is TV coverage)

Pool Standings

Rank Team Played Wins SO Win Draws SO Loss Losses Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
1 Belgium 6 4 1 0 0 1 19 11 8 14
2 Netherlands 6 2 2 0 1 1 17 17 0 11
3 India 4 2 1 0 0 1 12 9 3 8
4 Spain 8 2 0 0 1 5 19 27 -8 7
5 Australia 4 1 1 0 1 1 13 11 2 6
6 Germany 2 1 1 0 0 0 7 3 4 5
7 Argentina 4 1 0 0 2 1 12 9 3 5
8 Great Britain 4 1 0 0 2 1 9 10 -1 5
9 New Zealand 6 1 1 0 0 4 8 19 -11  

FIH Match Centre

2020 FIH Pro League (Women) - 17 February

15 Feb 2020     NZL v USA (RR)     3 - 1
15 Feb 2020     ARG v NED (RR)     2 - 0
16 Feb 2020     NZL v USA (RR)     3 - 1
16 Feb 2020     ARG v NED (RR)     1 - 3

Live streaming and full game replay on https://fih.live (May be Geo blocked if there is TV coverage)

Pool Standings

Rank Team Played Wins SO Win Draws SO Loss Losses Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
1 Netherlands 5 4 0 0 0 1 19 5 14 15
2 New Zealand 6 3 0 0 1 2 13 10 3 10
3 Argentina 4 3 0 0 0 1 15 6 9 9
4 Australia 3 1 1 0 1 0 6 5 1 9
5 Belgium 4 1 1 0 1 1 7 9 -2 6
6 Great Britain 3 1 1 0 0 1 6 4 2 5
7 Germany 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
8 China 2 0 0 0 0 2 2 7 -5 0
9 United States 5 0 0 0 0 5 5 27 -22 0

USA v NED (26.01.2020) worth double points
AUS v GBR (01.02.2020) worth double points

FIH Match Centre

Netherlands women suffer first defeat at the hands of Las Leonas

Argentina’s women claimed a stunning 2-0 victory over reigning World, European and Pro League champions the Netherlands in one of four FIH Hockey Pro League matches to take place in recent hours. There were also positive results for the Netherlands men and the national teams of New Zealand.

Olympic champions Argentina men twice fought back from a goal down to secure a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands, but it was the Dutch who prevailed in the shoot-out, producing a clinical display to claim the bonus point. The result sees the Dutch climb up to second in the FIH Hockey Pro League standings, moving ahead of India but still some five points behind league leaders Belgium.

A frenetic first quarter saw the Dutch take the lead thanks to a close range finish from Mirco Pruijser, only for Lucas Martinez to pull Argentina level before Billy Bakker instantly re-established the lead for the Netherlands. Argentina eventually tied the match in the fourth quarter when Jose Tolini arrowed a penalty corner drag-flick into the roof of the Dutch net. However, the Netherlands were excellent in the shoot-out, with Jeroen Hertzberger, Glenn Schuurman and Jonas de Geus on target as Argentines Nicolas Keenan, Martin Ferreiro and Agustin Mazzilli faltered.

"I think we dominated the first half and the third quarter", said Netherlands striker Mirco Pruijser, who was named Player of the Match. "We had the chance for 3-1 or 4-1, but they scored to make it 2-2 and then you see the shoot-outs, and I'm very happy that we won them. I think we played a very good match, in the end a draw, but for tomorrow I think we need to fight harder."

More information on the match can be found on the live reporting page by clicking here.

In the second match in Buenos Aires on Saturday evening, Argentina women claimed a stunning 2-0 victory over reigning World, European and Pro League champions the Netherlands. It was a third win in three games for Las Leonas, leaving them three points behind a Dutch team that they will face again on Sunday evening.

The host nation produced a superb defensive display to keep the world number one ranked team off the scoreboard throughout the contest, whilst registering goals of their own in the third and fourth quarters of the match. Agustina Gorzelany scored a wonderful penalty corner drag-flick in the 35th minute, sending her effort into the top right corner. The points were wrapped up in the final minutes of the match by Delfina Merino, who finished off a fine passing move by smashing a backhand strike into an open goal shortly after the Netherlands replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player.

Speaking in the post-match interview, Player of the Match Agustina Albertarrio said: "It was a really tough game. I think we did a good game and we won it, so we are very happy and thinking about tomorrow."

More information on the match can be found on the live reporting page by clicking here.

In Christchurch, New Zealand’s women worked their way past a determined USA team for a 3-1 victory and back to back wins for the first time in the 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League. New Zealand captain Stacey Michelsen produced a Player of the Match performance, being instrumental in two of the New Zealand goals and was a constant threat throughout. Olivia Merry put the Black Sticks ahead in the 16th minute with Michelsen doubling the lead mid-way through the third quarter. Danielle Grega pulled a goal back for USA early in the fourth quarter before Alia Jaques sealed a New Zealand win that moves the Black Sticks up to second in the Pro League standings.

More information on the match can be found on the live reporting page by clicking here.

A victory for the Black Sticks men over Spain ensured it was a day of double celebration for New Zealand’s national teams, with a 3-2 win over the Red Sticks being their first ever FIH Hockey Pro League win in regular time. The hosts established a 2-0 lead thanks to strikes from Kane Russell and Steve Edwards before Alvaro Iglesias reduced Spain’s deficit ahead of the fourth and final quarter. However, a second goal for Player of the Match Kane Russell arrived with four minutes of the match remaining and proved decisive, with Pau Quemada netting what proved to be a consolation effort in the final minute. The result sees New Zealand climb off the bottom of the table, moving ahead of Argentina into eighth place, with Spain in fourth position.

More information on the match can be found on the live reporting page by clicking here.

The FIH Hockey Pro League continues later today as the national teams of Argentina and the Netherlands play their respective second matches in Buenos Aires.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on the FIH Hockey Pro League via the event website and through FIH social media channels - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

FIH Hockey Pro League 

Saturday 15 February 2020 (Evening session)

CENARD - Buenos Aires (ARG) 

Men’s result: Argentina 2, Netherlands 2 – Netherlands win 3-2 in shoot-out (Match 1 of 2)
Player of the Match: Mirco Pruijser (NED)
Umpires: Steve Rogers (AUS), Jakub Mejzlik (CZE) & Michelle Meister (GER - video)

Women’s result: Argentina 2, Netherlands 0 (Match 1 of 2)

Player of the Match: Agustina Albertarrio (ARG)
Umpires: Michelle Meister (GER), Maggie Giddens (USA) & Jakub Mejzlik (CZE – video)

Sunday 16 February

Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium - Christchurch (NZL) 

Women’s result: New Zealand 3, USA 1 (Match 2 of 2)
Player of the Match: Stacey Michelsen (NZL)
Umpires: Annelize Rostron (RSA), Junko Wagatsuma (JPN) & Adam Kearns (AUS – video)

Men’s result: New Zealand 3, Spain 2 (Match 2 of 2)
Player of the Match: Kane Russell (NZL)
Umpires: Javed Shaikh (IND), Adam Kearns (AUS) & Junko Wagatsuma (JPN – video)

Upcoming fixtures - Sunday 16 February

Buenos Aires (ARG) – Men: Argentina v Netherlands (Match 2 of 2)

Time: 1800 (GMT/UTC -3)
Buenos Aires (ARG) – Women: Argentina v Netherlands (Match 2 of 2)
Time: 2030 (GMT/UTC -3)


Official FIH Pro League Site

Netherlands men and women do the business in Buenos Aires

The final FIH Hockey Pro League fixtures of the weekend took place in Argentina, with the Netherlands men and women both achieving positive results against the host nation on a weather affected evening in Buenos Aires.

For the second day in succession, the Netherlands men claimed a bonus point against Olympic champions Argentina by winning a shoot-out after regular time finished with the scores locked at 2-2. The result sees the Dutch strengthen their hold on second position in the FIH Hockey Pro League table, leaving them three points behind league leaders Belgium with both having played six matches.

Lucas Vila and Agustin Mazzilli established a 2-0 lead for Los Leones before the Netherlands pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time through Mirco Pruijser. The Oranje piled on the pressure in the third and fourth quarters but had to wait until the 56th minute before eventually finding the equaliser, with Player of the Match Robbert Kemperman firing home a first-time strike to trigger the shoot-out for the bonus point. Misses from Lucas Martinez and Mazzilli in the one-on-ones proved costly, with Jeroen Hertzberger, Seve van Ass, Thijs van Dam and Mirco Pruijser successfully converting to ensure that the Netherlands leave Argentina with four points from the maximum six on offer in this weekend’s matches.  

Reflecting on the game, Netherlands ace Kemperman said: "I think we played really well, it was a solid game and we created a lot of chances. We can be happy with today, I think the score could have been much bigger. We created a lot of chances, a lot of PCs, but we won the shoot-out so in the end we can be happy."

More information on the match can be found on the live reporting page by clicking here

The second match in Buenos Aires was heavily affected by a lightning storm that resulted in a delay of nearly two hours, but eventually it was the Netherlands who emerged triumphant, taking a 3-1 victory over hosts Argentina. The victory helped the Dutch extend their advantage at the top of the FIH Hockey Pro League, moving onto 15 points, five clear of New Zealand in second position and six ahead of third placed Argentina.  

The weather delay arrived mid-way through the first quarter with the score at 0-0, but when play eventually resumed it was the host nation who took the lead thanks to Agustina Gorzelany’s low penalty corner early in the second period. The Netherlands restored parity on the stroke of half time through Frederique Matla’s penalty corner drag-flick before moving ahead in the third quarter when Yibbi Janssen found the target from another penalty corner situation. The scoring was completed in the last second of the match by Kyra Fortuin, who angled a Lidewij Welten pass into the Argentine net to earn a measure of revenge following Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Las Leonas.

"We wanted to play with more energy and I think we had a way better connection than we did yesterday”, said Netherlands star Laura Nunnink, who was named Player of the Match. “We worked really hard to be an option for each other and play a passing game, so that was the difference."

More information on the match can be found on the live reporting page by clicking here.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on the FIH Hockey Pro League via the event website and through FIH social media channels - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

FIH Hockey Pro League

Sunday 16 February – Evening session

CENARD – Buenos Aires (ARG)

Men’s result: Argentina 2, Netherlands 2 – Netherlands win 4-3 in shoot-out (Match 2 of 2)

Player of the Match: Robbert Kemperman (NED)
Umpires: Jakub Mejzlik (CZE), Steve Rogers (AUS) & Maggie Giddens (USA - video)

Women’s result: Argentina 1, Netherlands 3 (Match 2 of 2)
Player of the Match: Laura Nunnink (NED)
Umpires: Michelle Meister (GER), Maggie Giddens (USA) & Steve Rogers (AUS - video)


Official FIH Pro League Site

Dutch women suffer first FIH Pro League loss in Argentina

By Ali Iveson

Argentina's Agustina Albertarrio was named player of the match ©Getty Images

The Netherlands' women's team suffered their first defeat of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Pro League season in Argentina, going down 2-0 as the hosts made it three wins from three so far.

Argentina's defence was in fine form to shut out the world, European and Pro League champions, while Agustina Gorzelany scored an excellent goal from a penalty corner to give them the lead.

With three minutes remaining, and The Netherlands having replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player, Delfina Merino wrapped up the victory by adding a second goal.

"It was a really tough game," Argentina's Agustina Albertarrio - named player of the match - said after the game at Cenard in Buenos Aires.

"I think we [played] a good game and we won it, so we are very happy and thinking about tomorrow."

The Netherlands remain top of the standings on 12 points, but Argentina are now just three points behind in third.

A shoot-out was needed to separate the Dutch and Argentinian men's teams.

Mirco Pruijser put the Dutch ahead before two goals in the space of a minute - one for each team - made it 2-1, with Billy Bakker cancelling out Lucas Martinez's equaliser.

Jose Tolini scored from a penalty corner in the final quarter to take the match to a shoot-out which The Netherlands won 3-1.

Jeroen Hertzberger, Glenn Schuurman and Jonas de Geus all scored.

Now on nine points, the Dutch men's team are second in the men's standings.

New Zealand's men picked up their first win of the FIH Pro League season ©Getty Images

The Netherlands and Argentina will face off again in another doubleheader later on today.

There was double joy for New Zealand at Nga Puna Wai in Christchurch a few hours later, with their men women both victorious.

The women's team made it two wins over the United States in as many days, with Olivia Merry, Stacey Michelsen and Alia Jaques all scoring in a 3-1 triumph.

Danielle Grega scored the lone US goal.

The men then enacted some revenge upon a Spanish team who had beaten them 4-1 a day before.

Kane Russell and Steve Edwards gave the Black Sticks a 2-0 advantage, only for Alvaro Iglesias to get a goal back and set up a grandstand finish.

It was New Zealand's Russell who produced the decisive goal though, scoring from a penalty corner once more four minutes from time.

Pau Quemada scored a consolation in the final minute to make the final score 3-2, with Russell named player of the match.

It's New Zealand's first win of the FIH Pro League season and lifts them off the bottom of the table.

Inside the Games

Pro League games against India good preparation for Olympics: Aussie captain Zalewski

With two wins from four matches, Australia is currently at the fifth spot while India, with three victories out of four games, is a rung above in the third place.

Australia skipper Aran Zalewski thinks India will be a tough nut to crack in front of home crowd.   -  Getty Images

The upcoming FIH Pro League matches against a tough Indian side will serve as good preparation for world no.2 Australia ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, says the visiting team’s captain Aran Zalewski.

After a disappointing start to its campaign in the second FIH Pro League where it lost to world champion Belgium, Australia bounced back with victories over Great Britain and will now lock horns against India in the two-leg contest here on Friday and Saturday.

Soon after arriving here on Sunday night, the skipper of the three-time world champion admitted that world no.4 India would be a tough nut to crack in front of home crowd.

“I think it serves us as good preparation to be facing India away from home in this important Olympic year,” Zalewski said.

“The Indian team has also done well so far, so we’re looking forward to playing them here. We also have a week to prepare for the matches, so we’re hoping we can acclimatise with the conditions and put up a strong show,” he said.

With two wins from four matches, defending champion Australia is currently at the fifth spot in the points table with six points, while India, with three victories out of four games, is a rung above at the third place.

Australia coach Colin Batch too agreed with his captain when asked about his expectations from the matches against India at the Kalinga Stadium.

“We’re delighted to be back here in Bhubaneswar to face India. It’s been a mixed start for us in the Pro League so far, but we’re hoping to face a tough fight against the hosts. We are also looking forward to playing in front of a noisy, full crowd,” he said.


Vivek Sagar Prasad overcomes lack of money, height and career-threatening injury to become FIH Rising Star of the Year

Sundeep Misra

File photo Vivek Sagar Prasad. Image credits @TheHockeyIndia

It’s a sun-kissed July afternoon at the Hockey and Bandy Club, Breda in the Netherlands. India are playing in the final of the 2018 Champions Trophy, the 37th and last edition of what has been a brilliant tournament, played by the top six nations annually. The opponents are Australia with 14 titles in the bag. The stands are packed, perfect weather, around 250 plus Indian fans, waving the tricolour, who drove and jetted in from different parts of Europe. It is India’s second final. Ever.

India has just finished warming up on Pitch 1, a shout away from the main pitch where the final will be played. The Indian team is streaming out, kit bags on shoulders. Coach Harendra Singh shouts: “Battis, final nahi khelna?” Battis runs in from the bench where he has been tying his laces. He grins and joins his teammates.  Battis, numerically 32 is the shirt number of Vivek Sagar Prasad, the 17-year-old midfielder.

For Vivek, this could be just another match, another local game in some town in Maharashtra or anywhere in India. No visible sign of nerves on a player who tends to get swallowed up in the striking circle. You would if you are barely touching 5 feet 3 inches.

India have missed a couple of chances in the first quarter and Australia make India pay in the 24th minute (2nd Q) when Blake Gover's powers in a penalty corner to take the lead. India’s misses continue; Mandeep’s shot goes off the post, Aussie goalkeeper Tyler Lovell has decided to play the final of his life, keeping away shots from Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay.

In the third quarter of the match, there are moments when the class of some of the Indian players is on full display. Harmanpreet Singh’s hit from just inside the centre finds Manpreet, who propels it inside the striking circle where Chinglensana takes a swipe, but the ball deflects off an Aussie defender stick. Deflections are wicked, surprise balls that zip into space not meant for them. Vivek has positioned himself, space in front, perfectly. Any other player would have moved towards the ball. Vivek moves away from it, a poacher’s sense plus the wisdom of a midfielder (beyond his age) telling him ‘wait.’

The ball rises after the ricochet. Extended stick, space now a luxury, Vivek’s swats it through the legs of Daniel Beale, past the surprised Tyler. It’s 1-1. Goal apart, Vivek rose several levels; that one goal marking him out as a player who understood the virtue of patience, resulting in that split-second goal.

So, when the FIH Rising Star of the Year Award was announced, it was no surprise that Vivek Sagar Prasad won it. Opinions, reactions, views, perspectives could be different, they always are. No denying that India, a top-four hockey nation, have a player who could in the coming years be the schemer, the mind, the playmaker.

At Breda, India lost in the shoot-out, a second consecutive Champions Trophy final given away. In the interview tent, Vivek’s body was still pumping adrenaline. It’s a loss he didn’t understand. “Nahi malum Kyun haar gaye? (Don’t know why we lost),” he says, his face reflective of the churn in his mind, still living the match.

Later, the India coach, then, Harendra Singh, said, “That goal was the sign of a mature player, a thinking player, who understands what to do in a particular moment.”

Maturity has been there since he was a youngster. “It’s a sign of the sanskar (upbringing),” says Rohit Prasad Sagar, his father, who is a teacher at the Prathmik Siksha Vidyalaya in Hoshangabad, a good 70 kms from Bhopal, once a huge centre for hockey talent.

Nobody in the family has ever played sports. Hockey was never on the mind till Vivek just picked up a stick and started playing. It’s a cliché but apt – the love affair had begun. “I never wanted him to play,” Vivek’s father admits. “Nobody in the vicinity had done anything great by playing sports. We all need jobs, money to survive.”

“And then somebody told me that to play at a higher level, you need approach,” he says. “Where would I get that from?” He didn’t need it. For a precocious talent like Vivek, someone with an eye to spot talent was more important than ‘approach.’

In stepped Ashok Kumar, the man whose match-winning goal gave India a 2-1 victory over Pakistan in the final of the 1975 World Cup. Being Dhyan Chand’s son (pedigree) also helped as he knew a thing or two about spotting talent.

“Behind every player, there is an inspiration or a pat on the back,” explains Ashok. “If I say who gave me the inspiration for playing hockey, it was Major Dhyan Chand and Roop Chand. I remember I went to Akola for the finals as a chief guest and that time I was working as the Chief Coach in the MP State Academy. I was watching the final match and he was playing the final match from the Tikamgarh team and that time he must have been 13-14 years. I saw an extraordinary thing in him, a small kid with not much height, not too old but played hockey like a pro.”

“Then I thought this kid needs help somewhere. I went up to him and asked whether he wants to join the MP State Academy. He agreed. He came to Bhopal in 10-12 days and I kept him with me in the house I was staying for 3 months. And then the trials and no one was there to stop him in the trials. He was selected for MP State.”

Vivek’s father has met Ashok twice, once when he was inducted into the Academy and then at an awards ceremony where Vivek was being honoured. “They said he has talent,” he said. “I didn’t know what that meant. But I believed them.”

Vivek’s father was worried about the financial aspect too. Sport is expensive. Besides talent, one needs money to foot travel and equipment costs. But the Academy in Bhopal took care of that. Vivek never asked for money at home. Maturity.

Even when Vivek met with an accident on the pitch, an opponent’s stick hit him on the left collarbone, resulting in a gash, the white of the bone showing. Surgery was immediate. “But complications developed later,” says Rohit. “He had lung issues, water had collected. Doctors said, it was touch and go. But he survived.”

The 2016 Junior World Cup was gone. No way Vivek could have recovered in time. Hell, even playing hockey seemed impossible. Quietly, he picked himself up. His father thought he would never play again. “After that kind of injury, who can?” asked Vivek’s father. Vivek had other ideas. So did Ashok. “He started walking and coming to the ground,” says Ashok. “I tied one of his hands and asked him to not use his injured hand and practice with one hand with all precautions.”

Ashok was ecstatic on Vivek winning the FIH Award, the first Indian player to win the top prize in any category (later Lalremsiami (FIH Rising Star of the Year for women) and then Indian captain Manpreet Singh won the Men’s FIH Player of the Year)

“Vivek Sagar is a new rising star and the youngest boy of the team has come up. The FIH has recognised his game, his art. I am very happy,” said Ashok. After winning the award, Vivek called Ashok. “Yes, I got his call and I told him that keep this happiness within you and don’t let this out. Keep this pride within you and don’t let it go to your head. There are other things that you have to achieve.”

After playing the Champions Trophy, the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Youth Olympic Games, Vivek, surprisingly was dropped for the 2018 World Cup. To many it was shocking. One could argue that at the age of 18, he had many years in front of him. But the boy had played everything that was thrown at him and shown improvement at every step. India had dropped Sardar Singh, their centre-midfielder for the World Cup. Vivek was the right man for the job – the hunger, ambition, aspiration and the dream to fill those big boots would have been inspiring for him. However, he sat on the sidelines.

“Yes, he should have been chosen and I was disappointed that this kid was not selected otherwise we would have had a better result,” says Ashok. “Don’t know what was the thinking of the selection committee then but I believe he should have been there.” India lost their quarter-final game to Holland.

Former Indian captain, midfielder and the coach to have seen Vivek in his formative years, Jude Felix, also wants to understand why he was dropped for the World Cup. “If you didn’t find the boy useful, why play him in all these big tournaments,” asks Jude. “And if you want someone else, induct him early. I never quite understood what happens in those selection meetings. And if you dropped him for the World Cup, why did you take him back?”

Vivek dedicated the FIH award to his team-mates. “I would like to dedicate this award to my teammates and staff members, as with their help, I performed well last year. To improve my current form, I am focussing on my skills and fitness.”

With the FIH Pro League on, a place in the Indian side cemented, a future that can only get brighter, how far as a player can Vivek go?

“Very far,” says Jude. “He is committed to the sport. The basics are all there. Now, he needs to receive the ball more and gain some strength. The marking is so tight in the game today that ball receiving should be of the highest order. The better you receive with space on your side, the better the push, pass to a player.”

There have been discussions on his height (or lack of it) and how would he pierce through a field of defenders that are six feet plus. Jude, himself, wasn’t tall and neither was Holland’s versatile midfielder, Olympic gold and World Champion, Marc Delissen or for that matter, Australia’s legend, Jamie Dwyer. But they were quick and had the vision to see what the opposition defenders couldn’t fathom in that split second of holding and passing the ball.

“Marc Delissen was a brilliant playmaker,” says Jude. “He would seem a little lazy but that mind out-thought almost everybody on the pitch. Vivek is faster than Marc on the field. Of course, the game has gotten faster too. Vivek’s strength is that he sees things and is smart when it comes to anticipation.”

Vivek Sagar Prasad is the second-youngest player to debut for India, at 17 years, 10 months and 22 days. Image credits @TheHockeyIndia

Jude says that since Sardar retired, there has been no central midfielder to hold the game. “That is where they should groom Vivek. He is the perfect central midfielder who has the slice ball, vision and is quick enough to pass and dart into pockets creating space as he runs. He is one midfielder in the Indian team who hates passing back.”

As awards come, scrutiny increases. Teams mark you out. Suddenly, space would decrease. You feel boxed in. “It will happen,” says Jude. “But he is smart enough to understand that. He will overcome.”

The things he cannot overcome, Vivek Sagar Prasad always has a smile for that. He goes home to Hoshangabad once in a while. A month back he was there for a couple of days. “Alu Paratha was ready for him,” says his father. “He distributed T-shirts, shoes and some sticks to young boys and after a few days he was off.” Nobody in the family has yet seen him play inside a stadium. They watch on TV and on the mobile. “I will try to go and watch a Pro League game in Bhubaneswar once the school holidays begin,” says Vivek’s father.

“Murkh hai? (He is a fool) Kuch Nahi Karega (will never do anything),” mutters Vivek, when he goes home, making sure his father is within hearing distance. His father explains. “I used to call him all that when he was young so now very quietly he comes and says it below his breath and walks way.” The father laughs.

The boy has grown up. Hockey has made him a star. The tiny tot with a stick almost his height has already created history. There will be more opportunities. The Vivek Prasad Sagar show promises more brilliance ahead.


Rise USWNT Earns Two Wins Over Canada on Day 1

Image Taken by Jennifer Richardson

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - The U.S. Rise Women's National Team kicked off their six-game series against Canada's U-18 team with two wins on the first day of competition at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

In Game 1, Rise USWNT was victorious 5-0 after scoring early, then adding three goals in quick succession in the final 10 minutes. Alexandria Wesneski (Forty Fort, Pa.) got USA on the board in the 9th minute after some nice combination play from a long corner. Hope Rose (Dauphin, Pa.) doubled the lead just before halftime, slamming home a bouncing ball from close range. The third quarter was scoreless as both teams created chances. In the 49th minute, Mia Leonhardt (Media, Pa.) deflected the initial shot from Ella Kaufman (Queenstown, Md.) to put the finishing touch on a counter attack. Wesneski scored another goal with five minutes remaining on a well hit penalty corner strike to the stick side of Canada's goalkeeper. Elizabeth Yeager (Rye, N.Y.) rounded out the scoring with two minutes to play as she beat both the goalkeeper and post player with a well-executed drag flick.The final score stood 5-0 in favor of USA.

“I thought we had a good first game against Canada," said Paige Bitting(Hummelstown Pa.). "We moved the ball well which lead to some good goalscoring opportunities."

In the second match, the Rise USWNT jumped into an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter but two unanswered goals from Canada made the game a tighter affair than the first.

Abigail Tamer (Whitmore Lake, Mich.) nabbed two field goals in the first quarter. The first one came off a one-time sweep after a couple of sharp saves from the Canada goalkeeper and the second was set up by a rebound offering, this time from closer range. A minute later, Josephine Palde (Schwenksville, Pa.) produced a mirror finish as she slotted a rebound under the advancing goalkeeper. USA could not add to their early lead and just before halftime, Canada was got on the scoreboard with a penalty corner strike to the bottom left corner. With eight minutes to play, USA's lead was cut to one after Canada finished off a period of possession where they worked the ball from back-to-front to make the closing stages tense, but USA stood tall to claim the 3-2 victory.

“It was a great way to start off the first day," said Claudia Thomas (Louisville, Ky.). "The energy was high, the competitiveness was there, but we need to maintain this throughout the whole game through the rest of the series.”   

The Rise USWNT is back in action today, February 16, when they take on Canada's U-18 team for another two matches at 1:00 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. PT. These games will not be live streamed. This event is open to the public and admission is free.

Rise USWNT vs. Canada U-18 Games

Sunday, February 16 Rise USWNT vs. U-18 Canada 1:00 p.m. PT
Rise USWNT vs. U-18 Canada 3:15 p.m. PT

Monday, February 17 Rise USWNT vs. U-18 Canada 1:00 p.m. PT
Rise USWNT vs. U-18 Canada 3:15 p.m. PT

USFHA media release

FIH Junior World Cup for men could be next significant event allocated to India; Chhattisgarh could play host

The Hockey Insider

Be it India’s stature as the most-lucrative destination for global events or a dearth of options available to the International Hockey Federation (FIH), more and more prestigious tournaments seem headed for Indian cities.

The 11th edition of the men’s FIH Junior World Cup could be the next significant event allocated to India at the FIH executive board’s conclave at Lausanne in March. Lest the FIH suddenly attracts lucrative bids – which are not usually the case for the youth events – this could be the third successive men’s Junior World Cup with India playing hosts.

It might have been a bit embarrassing for an international federation to revert to the same nation to stage its major events, but the FIH shed such inhibitions a long time ago. If India were willing to write the cheques, the FIH was eager to mend its event allocation policy and play ball. Since the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi opened the FIH’s eyes to the bonanza it could reap from India, the country has been the favourite destination for international events. And that was long before the FIH elected an Indian official as its first non-European President.

Gone were the days when the Indian hockey fraternity had to work hard to induce an impressive line-up for the annual Indira Gandhi Gold Cup Tournament. Long after that tournament went off the FIH roster, there has been a bonanza in the form of a series of tournaments as the FIH showed its eagerness to rake in the big bucks.

Vying to stage major international events, Indian cities/states are intent on continuing the trend as they show growing inclination to be inclined to go down the path of paying big bucks to sweeten their bids for hosting rights.

After staging the elite men’s FIH World Cup twice out of the past three editions, the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar has secured the right to host a second successive World Cup in 2023. This time Odisha state’s capital Bhubaneswar will share the hosting rights with Rourkela, another city in the state where hockey is immensely popular.

Now, the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh is eager to attract top-class international events and the opportunity seems to have arisen as the FIH goes out eliciting bids for the next Junior World Cup for men. After the 2013 edition in New Delhi and the 2016 tournament in Lucknow, a third successive men’s FIH Junior World Cup could be played in India.

When New Delhi and Lucknow were allocated the men’s FIH Junior World Cups, that was the period when the FIH was trying to stage one major event to India every year to reap the benefits from Indian sponsors keen on hockey. In fact, the 2016 World Cup was advanced by a year to ensure there was a tournament staged in India that year – sandwiched between the World League Finals in 2015 and 2017.

News emerging from Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh state, makes no bones that the city had put in an in-principal bid for the next FIH Junior World Cup.

It was the state of Chhattisgarh that began the practice of paying big bucks to attract major hockey tournament when Raipur was chosen the venue for the Hockey World League Finals in 2015.

From a performance perspective, it was deemed a success as the Indian team secured a bronze medal, the country’s first medal at a global event since the bronze at the 1982 Champions Trophy.

Sources in the FIH have told Hockey Insider that the world body would gladly accept the offer if any city or state authority was willing to pay the bills. It was in 2016 that the FIH and its affiliated Indian national federation discovered the attraction for the Junior World Cup when the state of Uttar Pradesh signed in a host and title sponsor of the tournament.

This time, Chhattisgarh is keen to stage the 16-nation event in Raipur and two other cities – Bilaspur and Rajnandgaon – which is likely to be considered by the FIH at its next Executive Board meeting in March where a decision on the host cities for the Junior World Cups – for men and women.

After announcing that the next Junior World Cup will be staged in 2021, Hockey Insider has learnt that the FIH is now pondering over scheduling it in 2022. Part of the delay was because the FIH got too occupied in frequent opening of bids for the 2023 senior World Cup. Now with lucrative hosting contracts for the elite event for seniors, the focus has shifted to the juniors.

If the FIH intends to stick to its decision announced in December 2018, the Junior World Cup will henceforth be staged every two years. It seemed somewhat strange for the sport’s governing body to announce this after forgetting to schedule the 2020 edition in the four-year roster.

The FIH decision to reduce the frequency of the tournament was to ensure young players did not miss the world juniors’ event in the four-year circuit. Although the FIH made the grand statement of ensuring enough international exposure to junior internationals, at least one generation of young players would already have lost its chance of winning a World Cup before the next edition gets underway.

A global title may have eluded India since the Olympic gold medal in 1980, but their young boys earned some plaudits over the years. From a close miss in the final of the 1997 Junior World Cup at Milton Keynes (Britain), India stepped up to claim the title in 2001 at Hobart (Australia) and then won it a second time in front of applauding home fans at Lucknow in 2016.

From the embarrassing situation where it had fallen way behind the schedule to nominate host cities for the next Junior World Cup, the FIH could be in for a bonanza if more than one city or state gets interested in earning its staging rights.


Nine goal Western Wildcats avoid indoor Euro relegation

Western Wildcats avoided relegation with a 9-0 mauling of Slavia (Bulgaria) in their final match at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Challenge 1 in Varna. The result left the Scots in second place in the relegation pool, and in safety.

Three consecutive defeats had put Western Wildcats in danger, but a devastating display of power play blew away the Bulgarians, as well as the spectre of relegation.

It was very much a team performance, but the highlights were the lethal finishing of captain Rob Harwood with five goals, the wiles of Joe McConnell who left the Bulgarians chasing shadows for the entire game, and at the other end keeper Gavin Sommerville easily kept a clean sheet.

Western Wildcats started by far the more enterprising side, creating several chances in the process. The opener came in eight minutes, McConnell`s dazzling run created the opportunity and 17-year-old Scott Menzies finished off the move.

Wildcats were in total command in the second quarter, the unmarked Harwood had plenty of time to pick his spot in the net to double the tally. Then Hamish Galt added a third when his penalty corner shot flew past the keeper into the net.

Just on the interval Menzies unselfishly crossed to take out the keeper leaving McConnell to fire into the empty net for 4-0 at the interval – and game over.

Two minutes into the second half Fraser Moran stole the ball off a Bulgarian defender, fed it on to Harwood who took his time to slide the ball under the keeper. Almost immediately after Harwood scored again for his hat-trick and 6-0.

At the end of the third quarter Nikki Homfray got the ball in the circle, calmly he took it round the keeper and slipped it into the net.

Further chances fell to Moran, Harwood had the ball into the net only to be disallowed, and Galt`s penalty corner shot went just wide.

But Harwood was not finished, with only a couple of minutes left he made it 8-0, then Galt created the move for Harwood to slip the ball past the keeper for his own fifth – leaving Wildcats just short of double figures.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Rovers ride late rollercoaster to preserve Ireland’s place in Euro second tier

Three Rock Rovers’ indoor side in Turkey

Three Rock Rovers indoor just about preserved Ireland’s place in the second tier of European competition with a 5-4 rollercoaster win over Switzerland’s Rotweiss Wettingen, capping their weekend with their best performance.

After back-to-back promotions brought Rovers from the lowest rung to the Club Indoor Trophy level this weekend, after plenty of early jitters, they found their feet at the right time to record a highest Irish placing since Avoca in 1995.

English champs East Grinstead gave an early indication of the level when they ran in five first half goals before Rovers got to the pitch of the game with three second half goals but still fell 6-3.

Croatia’s HK Zelina had already played 35 games this season and their patient, patterned game was evident as they ran in a 6-1 victory, picking off Rovers’ gung-ho approach.

They would eventually go on to be promoted and the result confirmed Rovers and Saturday morning’s opponents SCHC were already in the relegation pool. In a feisty affair featuring six yellow cards, Rovers fell 5-1.

A much more controlled performance against Portugal’s AD Lousada, though, ended on a hollow note. Ross Canning put Three Rock in front in the 39th minute but they could not see out the last minute and Ricardo Teixeira levelled.

It meant only a win would do against Rotweiss on Sunday morning but that looked to be slipping away when they trailed 4-3 with six minutes to go. James Walker, however, notched an equaliser before Jody Hosking summoned his second of the game for a 5-4 lead with barely 120 seconds left.

Within moments, the Swiss won a penalty stroke but goalkeeper Stephen West was awesome throughout the competition and he kept out the chance to preserve the result.

“There was all sorts of drama but, to be honest, Westy had saved four out of five strokes over the weekend so there was sort of a surreal calmness!” coach Liam Canning said of those heart-stopping final moments.

“We were defensively really tight in the last two games and we should have got something more from the Portuguese game. We were pretty profligate in front of goal but today we were far more measured.

“It’s a typical Irish thing; we just started to play well and then the tournament is over and that’s it for another year but we achieved something here, not just for Three Rock but for Irish hockey.”

Were indoor to get a more defined space in the calendar, he feels Irish clubs could commit more to the game and, ultimately, become more accustomed to the European scene.

The initial calendar had these weeks marked off as indoor-time with the men’s EYHL set to return next week but two rounds were rescheduled for early February from the autumn due to the Olympic qualifiers.

“There should be a break. We shouldn’t be playing [like it is now]. We’ve trained Tuesday outdoor, Wednesday indoor, Thursday outdoor, outdoor match Saturday then indoor matches on Sundays. It’s ridiculous. You arrive here and some of the lads are tired.

“Our weather is so unpredictable so when do you have the break? But you see the Dutch team who know theirs is clearly defined at the start of the season while we are already back into EYHL games.

“It has been a long haul and to be able to stay up is a vindication of the things we do in a small hall in St Columba’s with, at times, very little opposition. Here, we were driven to our utmost and we reacted.

“A lot of Three Rock members supported us financially to do this but the time commitment is nothing when you see yourself improving. We are doing that and hopefully it can be a boost for our outdoor season as well. For me, it’s been a long journey but it has been great when you see it improve.”

“We are no longer a bobsleigh team and we showed that today!”

EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy (all in Alanya, Turkey)

Pool A: Three Rock Rovers 3 (R Canning 2, J Walker) East Grinstead 6; Three Rock Rovers 1 (H Morris) HK Zelina 6; Three Rock Rovers 1 (J Walker) SCHC 5

Pool C: Three Rock Rovers 1 (R Canning) AD Lousada 1; Three Rock Rovers 5 (H Morris 2, J Hosking 2, J Walker) Rotweiss Wettingen 4

The Hook1. SCHC 15pts 2. Three Rock Rovers 7pts 3. Rotweiss Wettingen 6pts 4. AD Lousada 2pts

The Hook

ROUND-UP: English Men's Hockey League

Hampstead & Westminster held leaders Surbiton to a 1-1 draw in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division on Sunday, the first points they have dropped this season.

Surbiton took the lead took the lead in the 44th minute when Scott Evans found the net from open play.

The home side hit back four minutes later through a Josh Kelly field goal to level the scores.

Neither team could find a winner in the remaining minutes so both teams took a point apiece.

Holcombe produced a solid performance as they won 3-1 at home against Brooklands MU.

The away side started the brightest when Leo Watton scored from open play after only six minutes, but Harry Trusler equalised for Holcombe shortly before half time.

Nicholas Bandurak netted from free play in the 48th minute to give the home side the lead before Jeremy Edwards sealed the points seven minutes from time.

The University of Exeter leapfrogged Reading with a 3-2 win at home to move off the bottom of the table.

George Carson gave the home side the lead in the 11th minute after scoring from free play.

Ciaran O’Connell and Finlay Quaile netted in quick succession for Reading to give the away side a 2-1 lead at half time.

Simon Mantell levelled the affair in the 46th minute before Archie Winter scored the winner from open play in the 62nd to give the University of Exeter only their second victory of the campaign and breathe new life into their battle against the drop.

Division One South

Oxford Hawks came out on top in an exciting affair as they won 6-5 at Havant in the Men’s Hockey League Division One South on Sunday.

Jack Biggs (2), Ted Bennett, Andy Watts, Freddie Smith and Edward Tristem were all on the scoresheet for Oxford Hawks.

Manuel Silvetti (2), Charlie Stubbings, Jonathan Pickett and Atiq Arshad all netted for the hosts.

The result means that Havant missed out on an opportunity to close the gap at the top of the table as Oxted’s game versus Brighton & Hove was postponed due to weather.

Canterbury produced a good performance as they won 3-1 at Teddington.

Richard Kier gave the away side the lead from open play after only two minutes.

Phil Lewis levelled for Teddington before Adam Lee-Browne and Callum Brown-Lea secured the points for Canterbury.

Division One North

Four goals from Simon Egerton helped Bowdon to a 5-4 win at City of Peterborough in Division One North, maintaining their promotion push.

Richie Dawson-Smith also scored as Bowdon denied second-bottom Peterborough a dramatic result. The home side’s goals came from Sam Blunt, Ben Read, Alex Armstrong and Adam Wilson.

Bowdon are now second and just three points behind leaders University of Durham who, like Cardiff & Met in third, did not play last weekend.

The University of Birmingham won 4-2 at Leeds with goals coming from Matthew Simonds, Matthew Court, Thomas Thorne and Cuthbert Shepherd.

Goals in the first eight minutes from Jake Owen and Rohan Bhuhi were enough for Loughborough Students to win 2-1 at Sheffield Hallam on Saturday evening, while the match between the University of Nottingham and Olton & West Warwicks ended 3-3.

Conference North

Lichfield climbs up to third in the Conference North table after a win and a draw over the weekend.

They were 5-0 winners over bottom of the table Wakefield on Saturday with Harry Benson and Adrian Gilbert both scoring twice. And Gilbert bagged two more on Sunday as Lichfield were held to a 3-3 draw with Timperley, for whom Connor Miller scored twice.

Leaders Deeside Ramblers were 3-1 winners over visitors Alderley Edge with Rashad Al-Fazari scoring two and Russ Hornby one, while Belper remain second in the table despite their match with Didsbury Northern being postponed.

Elsewhere Barford Tigers won 7-2 at Preston and Doncaster were 4-0 winners at Wakefield.

Conference East

Leaders Wapping were beaten 1-0 at St Albans, cutting their lead to six points with second-placed Chichester winning 4-3 at Spencer.

George Scott scored for St Albans to inflict only Wapping’s second loss of the season.

Meanwhile, Chichester’s Alex Pendle scored twice while other goals came from Alex Baxter and Joseph Budgen. Spencer’s scorers were Kyle Good, Will Devitt and Neil Hamilton, but it wasn’t quite enough for the win.

Elsewhere Harleston Magpies were 6-1 winners over Bedford with Oakley Elsom scoring twice, while Old Loughtonians and London Edwardians drew 1-1.

Conference West

The University of Bristol shut out promotion rivals Richmond, winning 3-0 at home thanks to goals from Thomas Minall (2) and Will Jones. That leaves them three points behind Richmond in second.

Leaders Old Cranleighans are another five points ahead following their 3-1 victory over Cardiff University, with Will Marshall scoring twice for Cranleighans.

Elsewhere Ashmoor beat host Cheltenham 8-2, Harborne were 4-2 winners at home against Khalsa Leamington, and Isca were 1-0 winners over the University of Exeter 2s.

Men’s Hockey League (Sat, 15 February 2020):

Division One North: Sheffield Hallam 1, Loughborough Students 2.

Conference East: Spencer 3, Chichester 4; Old Loughtonians 1, London Edwardians 1.

Conference West: Harborne 4, Khalsa Leamington 2.

Conference North: Lichfield 5, Wakefield 0.

Men’s Hockey League (Sun, 16 February 2020):

Premier Division: Hampstead & Westminster 1, Surbiton 1; Holcombe 3, Brooklands MU 1; Univ of Exeter 3, Reading 2.

Division One North: City of Peterborough 4, Bowdon 5; Leeds 2, Univ of Birmingham 4; Sheffield Hallam 1, Loughborough Students 2; Univ of Nottingham 3, Olton & West Warwicks 3.

Division One South: Havant 5, Oxford Hawks 6; Teddington 1, Canterbury 3.

Conference East: Harleston Magpies 6, Bedford 1; Old Loughtonians 1, London Edwardians 1; Spencer 3, Chichester 4; St Albans 1, Wapping 0.

Conference North: Lichfield 5, Wakefield 0; Deeside Ramblers 3, Alderley Edge 1; Lichfield 3, Timperley 3; Preston 2, Barford Tigers 7; Wakefield 0, Doncaster 4.

Conference West: Cheltenham 2, Ashmoor 8; Harborne 4, Khalsa Leamington 2; Isca 1, Univ of Exeter 2s 0; Old Cranleighans 3, Cardiff university 1; Univ of Bristol 3, Richmond 0.

England Hockey Board Media release

Garvey extend lead as Bann and Corinthian continue strong run of form

YMCA’s Ross Henderson in possession. Pic: Sinéad Hingston

Lisnagarvey’s lead at the top of the men’s EY Hockey League stretched out to eight points after their comfortable 5-2 win over Pembroke and Banbridge’s 4-3 success over Monkstown.

Men’s EY Hockey League – day 10 round-up

Saturday: Pembroke 2 (A Sothern 2) Lisnagarvey 5 (A Williamson 3, D Nelson, J Lynch)

Lisnagarvey ended the weekend eight points clear as Andy Williamson’s hat trick helped them to a 5-2 win over Pembroke at Serpentine Avenue. They raced into an early 2-0 lead with Williamson’s drag-flick soon followed up by Johnny Lynch’s great solo run from halfway, riding a few tackles before finishing off.

Pembroke were in the ascendancy after that but could not make any inroads when Garvey were reduced to 10 men for 10 minutes before the game settled into a midfield battle leading up to half-time.

Alan Sothern halved the deficit early in the second half but Daniel Nelson’s rocket to the roof of the goal put Garvey back in the clear and a second Williamson corner made it 4-1. He completed his treble in the final quarter where Sothern also netted what was his 10th goal in four games but it proved to no avail.

Annadale 1 (W Aston) Corinthian 3 (I Stewart, G Holmes, A Sutton)

Corinthian closed the gap to the top four playoff places with a comfortable win at Strathearn over bottom side Annadale as their good run of form continues, making it seven points out of nine in 2020.

Ian Stewart put them in front after just three minutes before Glenn Holmes rolled back the years for 2-0 at the end of the first half. Andrew Sutton fired in a cracking third and while Will Aston nicked one back on three-quarter time, the Whitechurch reds were well on course to their fourth win of the season.

Glenanne v YMCA – match abandoned at 0-0 in third quarter

Glenanne and YMCA’s tie at St Andrew’s was abandoned with the score at 0-0 in the third quarter due a water-logged pitch. A new date for the refixed game which will be played in its entirety will now be sought.

Sunday: Banbridge 4 (B McCandless 2, J Moffett, O Magee) Monkstown 3 (G Watkins, G Cole, R Nichols)

Banbridge made it fives on the bounce – scoring 31 goals in the process – with a 4-3 win over second-plaved Monkstown, surviving a late fright after they had built an imposing lead.

Josh Moffett made it 1-0 after just 30 seconds before Philip Brown pushed in a penalty corner for 2-0. Town had already threatened with Luke Roleston making a series of key saves before the Dubliners got one back from a mistake in defence, Gareth Watkins the recipient for 2-1 in the 14th minute.

But another Brown corner goal extended the lead again to 3-1 which they held through to half-time and throughout the third quarter. Owen Magee seemingly made the game safe when he drilled into the bottom corner with 10 minutes left.

Monkstown immediately when to 11 outfielders and corner goals from Geoff Cole and Rory Nichols trimmed the gap to 4-3 with time running out. Bann held on and their winning streak remains in tact as they sit in third place on their own now.

Glenanne’s Clive Kennedy. Pic: Sinéad Hingston

The Hook

Pegasus move back into lead as all five women’s EYHL ties survive Storm Dennis

UCD’s Ellen Curran lines up a shot under pressure from Cork Harlequins’ Yvonne O’Byrne. Pic: Adrian Boehm

All five of the women’s EY Hockey League Division 1 ties defied the weather to serve up a series of close-run battles with Pegasus moving back out on their own at the top of the table.

Women’s EY Hockey League – day 10 round-up

Belfast Harlequins 1 (L Hamilton) Old Alexandra 2 (M O’Donnell, J Deacon)

At Deramore, Harlequins had the bulk of the possession and scoring chances but Old Alex showed the more clinical touch in front of goal.

Almost immediately after Serena Barr had a ‘goal’ disallowed from a penalty corner, Alex went ahead in the 17th minute when Millie O’Donnell fired home another set-piece with a direct shot.

Four minutes from half-time, the Dublin side made it 2-0, Jamie Deacon deflecting a cross from Pia Diepman high into the net for a brilliant goal.

The second-half belonged to Harlequins and Jenna Watt, Barr and Claire Weir all had efforts saved by Alex keeper Carolyn Crampton in the early stages.

Quins then missed a glorious opportunity to reduce the arrears as they failed to convert a two-on-one breakaway, Watt’s shot being stopped by Crampton in the 55th minute and Weir’s follow-up suffering a similar fate.

Two minutes later, Watt’s frustration was clear to see when the Alex keeper raced off her line to deny her again from a penalty corner switch back to the injector.

Irish international Nikki Evans fired wide on her backhand three minutes later following a lovely counter attack after being set up by Deirdre Duke and Isabella Dunlop.

Quins finally got on the scoresheet with the last play of the game when Lizzie Colvin’s shot took a Linzi Hamilton deflection at a set-piece but it was too little, too late.

UCD 0 Cork Harlequins 1 (Y O’Byrne) 

Yvonne O’Byrne’s single goal from a penalty corner deflection saw Cork Harlequins grab their second win of 2020 as they defended superbly to keep UCD scoreless at Belfield.

They managed to stay level in the first quarter as Niamh Carey, Abbie Russell and Lena Tice all went close but it was the visitors who took the initiative in the second quarter. And when the students’ corner team was reduced in numbers for breaking the line early, Harlequins played a clever corner move which O’Byrne guided in for the game’s only goal.

UCD returned to the ascendancy in the third quarter as they camped in Harlequins’ half for long portions but could not find a way through the defences of Kate Murphy and her defensive team.

It was their second win in three outings since the turn of the year and coach Darren Collins says O’Byrne’s influence since coming back from a foot injury has been vital.

“She is massive for us and one of the best players in the country,” he said. “I can’t believe she is not in the Irish squad; it doesn’t make any sense to me because she was head and shoulders above everyone else out there.

“We had the conditions in the first half; the second, that wind seemed to kick up another 10 or 20 knots. It was always going to be difficult but the girls defended with their lives in that last quarter.

“UCD were probably a bit unlucky but our keeper had a fantastic game – she had some bad luck last week but came up trumps this time!”

Loreto 1 (N Daly) Pembroke1 (G Pinder)

Loreto and Pembroke shared the spoils to see the former drop off top spot – albeit with a game in hand – following their tie at a rain-soaked Beaufort. Pembroke started strong, winning a trio of penalty corners as they edged the first quarter but all were well defended.

The Ballsbridge side, though, did go in front a couple of minutes into the second quarter with Gillian Pinder on the mark from play. The advantage did not last long, however, as Nicci Daly – back after a lengthy break – made an instant impact when she finished off from a lovely lay-off from Siofra O’Brien.

Liz Murphy’s defence remained busy in the second half, clearing a chance off the line as both teams had their moments. Ali Meeke and Sarah Torrans went close in the closing quarter but Pembroke had their point, making it four out of six against the Beaufort side this term.

Muckross 1 (S McAuley) Catholic Institute 2 (L Foley, N Carroll)

Catholic Institute moved out of the relegation playoff place with what could prove a vitally important away win at Muckross in a howling gale on Marlborough Road as tough conditions made free-flowing hockey difficult at times.

Harlequins’ goalkeeper Kate Murphy saves. Pic: Adrian Boehm

After a scoreless first half, the game burst into life in the third quarter after an excellent finish by Laura Foley who hopped in front of her marker to get a stick to a Rosie Pratt pass. The quality of the move and finish saw the ball fly into the top corner, something which was required to beat Ellie McLoughlin who was in exceptional form.

Muckross levelled quickly from a Sarah McAuley effort from a penalty corner but the Limerick side got back in front when Roisin Begley – one of the game’s star performers – crossed from the left to Leah Clery whose backhand pass found Naomi Carroll. She rounded McLoughlin and her shot was credited as the final touch – it was hard to establish whether it had crossed the line but Foley followed up from close range to make sure.

Pegasus 2 (L McKee 2) Railway Union 1 (K Lloyd)

Pegasus returned to the top of the women’s EYHL table as they found the best part of an otherwise miserable day weather-wise to grind out a 2-1 win over Railway Union.

Pegasus were quicker to settle into their rhythm, dominating the first quarter. They won two penalty corners in the first five minutes, converting the second one via a Lucy McKee deflection. Railway replied almost immediately, intercepting a loose pass and countering to great affect with a well-taken reverse by Kate Lloyd from Sarah Hawkshaw’s ball through.

Railway played well in the second quarter and had chances from Lily Lloyd and Hawkshaw to take the lead but some excellent work by the Pegasus goalkeeper Megan Todd meant that the scores were level at half time.

During the third quarter, McKee rocketed the ball into the roof of the net over Riona Norton with a sensational strike, giving Pegasus a 2-1 lead and allowing the home team to control the final quarter despite Railway going to 11 outfield players for the final seven minutes.

During that time, there was one worrying moment for Pegs when Railway’s final short corner struck the backboard; however, after consultation, the umpires agreed the initial shot was too high and the score remained 2-1 to Pegasus. 

The Hook

Pegasus reclaim top spot in Hockey League

Loreto held by Pembroke while Old Alexandra maintain impressive recent form

Mary Hannigan

Lucy McKee: scored both goals for champions Pegasus in the 2-1 away win over Railway Union. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
It didn’t take Pegasus long to reclaim top spot in the Hockey League.

Having been overtaken in the table a week ago by Loreto, their win over Belfast Harlequins last Wednesday followed by Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Railway Union returns them to the summit and puts them two points clear of the Dublin side. Loreto do, though, have a game in hand.

Lucy McKee gave the reigning champions a fifth-minute lead against Railway at Queens, but Kate Lloyd equalised for the visitors within three minutes. The scores remained level for another half an hour when McKee got what proved to be the winning goal, converting from the tightest of angles.

Loreto, meanwhile, were held to a 1-1 draw at Beaufort by Pembroke Wanderers, the team that beat them in the opening fixture of the campaign – Loreto’s only Hockey League defeat all season. Gillian Pinder put Pembroke a goal up but her international team-mate Nicci Daly levelled before half-time, and there were no more scores.

A week after beating Pegasus on their own patch, Old Alexandra picked up another win in Belfast, Millie O’Donnell and Jeamie Deacon getting first-half goals that ultimately proved enough to take the points, bottom club Harlequins only snatching a consolation score at the death through their captain Linzi Hamilton.

That made it four wins and a draw for Alexandra from their last five games, making them serious title contenders now. They’re just a point behind Loreto and three adrift of Pegasus, but with a game in hand on the leaders.

It proved to be a fruitful weekend for the Hockey League’s two Munster clubs, both of them overcoming the elements and their opponents to win their games in Dublin.

Cork Harlequins withstood relentless pressure from UCD at Belfield, the students peppering their goal with efforts from penalty corners and open play, but a superb defensive display along with a first-half Yvonne O’Byrne goal gave Harlequins the points to lift them four clear of the relegation zone.

Catholic Institute are just a point behind them after picking up only their second win of the campaign, all the goals in their game against Muckross coming in the third quarter. Laura Foley gave the Limerick side the lead, Sarah McAuley equalised for the home team, before Naomi Carroll sealed the victory for Institute.

The Irish Times

Champs UniKL undefeated

By Jugjet Singh

Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) players celebrate after winning the MHL title at Bukit Jalil. -Bernama

Champions Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) ended their Malaysia Hockey League campaign undefeated when they drew 1-1 with Tenaga Nasional in their final match in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

UniKL topped the standings with 40 points, followed by Tenaga (32), Terengganu HT (31) and Maybank (20).

“I’m a little disappointed as the players took things casually today (yesterday). Otherwise I have no issues and now we have to be sharper in the TNB Cup semi-finals,” said UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj after the prize-giving ceremony.

Tenaga took the lead through Shahril Saabah in the 51st minute before Ashran Hamsani equalised five minutes later.

RESULTS — Men: Maybank 2 Terenggan HT 2, Tenaga 1 UniKL 1, UiTM 4 TNB Thunderbolts 1.

New Straits Times

Imperfect champs


Unbeatable: UniKL players celebrate after winning the Malaysia Hockey League title. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/ The Star

PETALING JAYA: Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) have ended their Malaysian Hockey League campaign unbeaten, but not all’s perfect. It’s a record with a blemish.

UniKL would have ended their league campaign with a 100% record if they had beaten Tenaga Nasional yesterday.

The side led by coach Arul Selvaraj had to fight back to hold Tenaga 1-1 in their final league match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

The first three quarters proved to be a drab affair but the game came to live in the fourth quarter as both sides went all out looking for a goal.

Shahril Saabah drew first blood for Tenaga when he scored in the 51st minute but five minutes later, Ashran Hamsani equalised for UniKL.

Tenaga were looking to shock the champions as they needed a win to confirm the second spot.

But they still secured second place after third-placed Terengganu only managed a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Maybank, thanks to Jang Jong-hyun’s double from penalty corners.

For Arul, he was happy to see his team end the campaign unbeaten but there was some dissatisfaction.

“I was a little disappointed with their mindset, but it is good to do it now than to do it during the semi-final, ” he said.

“Our passing was also a little affected. The drive was not there. I wished they had shown more determination.

“Right now, the semi-final will be our focus. Instead of looking at tactics, we have to build up the players’ confidence.”

UniKL will be facing fourth-placed Maybank in the TNB Cup semi-final at the National Hockey Stadium on Feb 19.

Meanwhile, Tenaga coach Nor Saiful Zaini was happy with his charges as they showed great determination in the fourth quarter.

“We could have won the game. Our forward line was a little inexperienced but they will learn from this match.

“The young players have shown progress, and the fight shown in the fourth quarter was good to watch.

“We have a tougher assignment coming up against Terengganu, so it is time for me to prepare the boys for the game.”

His side will face the east coast side on Feb 19.

The Star of Malaysia

KHU set date for league kick off


Edmond Makona (foreground) of Kenya Police shields the ball from Wazalendo's Kennedy Munialo during their Kenya Hockey Union men Premier League match at City Park Stadium, Nairobi on December 1, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

The 2020 Kenya Hockey Union leagues will bully off on February 29.

However, the National League which is the third tier has been split into two zones: Western and Eastern. Other tiers are Premier and Super.

In the meeting between union officials, team managers and coaches held at City Park Stadium on Saturday, it was resolved that the third tier matches will not be played at the traditional hockey venue which in previous seasons hosted teams from all tiers.

KHU deputy match and fixtures secretary, Moses Majiwa said the move is meant to decongest the facility and also take the sport to the grassroots.

“We are working on the fixtures which will be released soon. We have earmarked three venues where the national league matches will be played but we won’t give the names just yet. The new move is for the betterment and growth of the sport,” said Majiwa.

“At the end of the regular national league that will be played on the home and away format, the top two teams in each zone will proceed to the play-offs with the top teams at the end of the event, earning a promotion to the Super League.”

Teams that form the Western zone are Bungoma Farmers, Kitale Hockey Club, Blue Pirates (Kakamega), BAY(Kisumu), University of Eldoret, Gorilla and Impala.

The Eastern zone teams are Mombasa West, Nairobi Chapel, Mt Kenya University, Thika Rovers, Daystar University, Karate Axiom, University of Nairobi and Wazalendo Youth.

Daily Nation

The rule changes that can make hockey a safer game

Chris Maloney

Sam Ward’s high-profile injury has added urgency to considerations as to whether or not anything can be done to increase player safety in hockey.

While wearing protective equipment can prove to be very helpful in reducing an injury-prone area of the hockey athlete’s body, for some, the only approach to reducing injuries is to engineer away the problem — gloves for hands, mouth guards for teeth, helmets for goalkeepers. They think there must be a player safety product to fit every possible problem — real or perceived.

While some engineering is great – mouth guards, shin protection, and gloves come to mind – I prefer to think seriously about whether or not there are any simple rule changes that could be incorporated into the game that would reduce the likelihood and severity of injuries without radically changing the sport.

The FIH has worked extensively to make the game safer than it was when I was a competitive player. The rule change to the free hit that allows for athletes to self-start is perhaps the single greatest contributor to player safety in the last 50 years. Two other big ones are the indirect circle entry requirements for attacking free hits approaching the circle and requiring the ball to leave the circle before a goal can be scored on a PC. The game is also more enjoyable to play, umpire, and watch. The point is, some rule changes not only increase player safety, they can also lead to positive unintended consequences.

Naturally, with all the legitimate improvements that have been made to the sport to reduce injuries, there is added attention and focus on the remaining areas where injuries remain high — the PC and shots on goal.

Some wonderfully qualified individuals in the sport have looked to eliminate the PC all together — a suggestion that lands with a thud and is cast out as heresy.

Regarding shots on goal, there is demonstrated inconsistency in how danger is judged. Members of the coaching community will argue, when a call of danger on a shot is applied against their team, that a shot on goal cannot be considered dangerous unless the ball hits a defender. This special “condition” is only applied to shots on goal. Elsewhere on the field, there is little argument that a ball that nearly takes off a player’s head is dangerous even though the ball didn’t actually hit the player. There is also confusion within the umpiring community as to what constitutes danger. A high-level, FIH panel umpire was picked up on a hot mic, incorrectly explaining to players that a shot on goal cannot be dangerous because it is a shot on goal.

It seems to me that there is an opportunity to greatly reduce the severity of injuries by making two simple rule changes. These changes are not so radical that, for example, they would eliminate the PC. They are changes that would be well understood.


No shots on goal — ever — shall be allowed by a player using a hitting action that results in the ball crossing the goal-line or to be on a path to cross the goal-line higher than 460 mm (18 inches) unless the ball is deflected. Yes, this would eliminate the relative excitement of a ball traveling at 100mph that is hit to the top of the net but, it would encourage development of other exciting scoring skills and plays that would have less disastrous consequences than when a ball with that velocity strikes a player’s head.

8. Method of scoring

8.1 Subject to the conditions in 8.2 being met, a goal is scored when the ball is played within the circle by an attacker and does not travel outside the circle before passing completely over the goal-line and under the crossbar.

[NEW] 8.2 No shots on goal shall be allowed by a player using a hitting action that would result in the ball, unless deflected, crossing the goal-line or to be on a path to cross the goal-line higher than 460 mm (the height of the backboard).


On PCs, all first shots would have the same restriction as currently applied to hits. The first shot at goal during a PC, regardless of what skill is used, the ball, unless it is deflected, would have to cross the goal-line, or be on a path to cross the goal-line, at a height not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard). Yes, this would eliminate the use of a very high lift (flick or scoop) as a first shot during penalty corners but, [a] how often is that used and [b] given the added safety that no raised shots as a first shot on penalty corners would bring, it’s more than a fair trade off.


13.3 Taking a penalty corner:

On the first shot at goal, the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored. Guidance: If the first shot will be too high crossing the goal-line it must be penalized even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player. The PC changes described above would apply to hockey and indoor hockey.


It’s exciting for the attack when a PC is awarded or a high hit is taken at goal but, that has to be balanced by how cringe worthy those same things are for defenders (and their parents).

These are two simple changes that within two years, I predict, would go unnoticed. Sure, members of the old guard (like me) would be watching from the stands saying, “Remember when we could hit ball into the top of the net?”

This article was adapted from our January edition

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The Hockey Paper

Reliving a bygone era with Balbir Singh, the nonagenarian hockey legend

Ninety-six-year-old Balbir, triple Olympic hockey gold medallist, still retains a sharp memory.

Vijay Lokapally

Stroll down memory lane: Balbir Singh (left) with his daughter Sushbir at her residence in Chandigarh.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

His home in Chandigarh can be termed a tribute to the great game of hockey. You are ushered into the drawing room, a virtual museum displaying a magnificent collection of trophies, medals, award citations, that document Balbir Singh’s hockey journey. The trophy, his first as a teenager when in school, may have lost the lustre but not the value. Balbir’s eyes sparkle as he holds the precious belonging, his hands tremble, but he does not let go of the little gem. “It’s very dear to me,” he fumbles. And why not? It has been with him for close to 88 years now.

To call the 96-year-old Balbir frail, weak, ill, would disappoint him, for he protests by shaking his head. “I am fine,” he insists with a smile. “He is as good as he has been last three decades,” smiles his doting daughter Sushbir. She gave up hockey to pursue studies on Balbir’s advice and has not regretted it. “I have lived my hockey through my father’s exploits on the field and his love for the game.”


For grandson Kabir, life revolves around Balbir. Having quit a lucrative job in South Africa and now devoted to serving his “Nanaji,” the genial Kabir is Balbir’s eyes and ears. “I just love every moment spent with him. His energy and memory are an amazing source for all of us. It is such an honour to be known as his grandson,” gushes Kabir.

Balbir, triple Olympic hockey gold medallist (1948, 1952 and 1956), has spent 160 days (from October 1, 2018 to November 20, 2019) in hospital — 95 of them in Intensive Care Unit. He returned from the brink to the warmth of the house, owned by Sushbir. “He would divide time here and in Vancouver (with two sons). He is grandfather and great grandfather in Canada,” smiles Kabir.

According to Sushbir, Balbir needs constant attention. “He needs the help of a care-taker but also insists on doing things by himself too, like having his food, milk and juices. He loves reading newspapers and watching news. He can stay up late if there is a hockey match to be watched live. He had to keep himself abreast of the happenings the world over.”


As for Balbir, his memory is sharp, if not razor sharp as it used to be. He recalls the 1948 Olympics with amazing details. “There was no greater joy for me than seeing the tri-colour going up. The National Anthem and the fact that we beat our rulers (British) on their home soil to win and retain the Olympic hockey gold can never be forgotten. Never,” the excitement in his tone confirms the awesome feat of the team at London.

The family has kept him in the dark on the loss of some of the memorabilia he had donated to the Sports Authority of India. “It was callous of them to have lost such priceless gifts from his personal collection,” says a sad Sushbir. She and Kabir have made frantic efforts, in vain until now, to plead with investigation for retrieving the valuables — medals, trophies and blazers.

“Come again soon,” the grand old man of Indian hockey says with a warm handshake. You wish him “good health,” holding on to the hands that created magic on the hockey turf.


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