News for 25 August 2013

All the news for Sunday 25 August 2013


Germany take European Champions title in Boom

Netherlands defeat Belgium for Bronze



Germany are women's European Champions 2013 (Photo: EHF / Frank Uijlenbroek)

On the final day of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships, Germany took over the European Champions title after a win over England and the Netherlands took home a bronze medal after defeating Belgium. In the 5th-8th place play-off pool, Spain and Scotland maintained the category with victories over Belarus and Ireland respectively. The two latter teams will miss out on Europe's top eight competition in 2015.

Final: Germany – England 4-4 (4-3) 2-0 Shoot-out

In yet another match decided in a shoot-out at these women's TriFinance EuroHockey Championships, Germany snatched the European women's title for the second time in history.

The match set off at a blistering pace in a dynamic first half that saw seven goals. It was barely three minutes into the match when Georgie Twigg got England on the scoreboard, but Germany hit back with less than a minute through Eileen Hoffmann. Kate Walsh snatched back the lead four minuets later with a penalty corner goal, but then the pendulum swung the other way as a double hit from Tina Bachmann gave Germany the advantage. Helen Richardson and Hannah Krüger finally added a goal each for a 4-3 halftime lead for Germany.

In stark contrast to the first half goal fest, the second half only saw one lone goal as England's pressure was stalled by the tight German defense. Four minutes from the end, Susie Gilbert sunk the all-important equalizer that sent the match into the shoot-out, keeping the English team's hopes for a win alive.

In the shoot-out however, for the second time in three days, Germany came out on top, but the silver medal finish was still England's best result in 22 years.

In the ceremony following the conclusion of the final, Maddie Hinch from England picked up the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament award, while Maartje Paumen took away the Topscorer title. Tina Bachmann had been elected Best Player of the Tournament. The winning team from Germany also received - in addition to the prestigious EuroHockey trophy - a diamond stick worth 20.000 Euros.

Bronze Medal: Belgium – Netherlands 1-3 (0-2)

In the match for the bronze medal, the Belgian hosts had to take on the Netherlands for the second time this week after going under in the first clash.

An energetic start into the match from both sides saw the Olympic champions take the lead soon with a Caia van Massakker penalty corner goal, as Carlien Dirske van den Heuvel landed a final touch on a penalty corner ball bounced around the circle to double the lead before the break.

The Red Panthers chased the equalizer but were held at bay by the strong Dutch defense through much of the second half. In the 53rd minute however, Charlotte de Vos landed a fabulous reverse stick ball high into the net.

Belgium went all out pushing for the elusive equalizer, taking the goalkeeper off the field for an extra field player, but had to concede another goal instead as the Dutch stormed towards the goal and Ellen Hoog crashed the ball into the boards with three minutes to go.

The Netherlands thus take bronze, their 8th consecutive medalling finish in European Championships.

Pool C: Spain – Belarus 4-2 (2-0)

Eearlier in the day, Spain had defeated Belarus with a solid performance. Beatriz Perez and Gloria Comerma were the authors of first half goals for a comfortbale 2-0 halftime lead.

Just after the break, Rocio Ybarra piled on another with a great reverse stick effort, before Ryta Batura and Volha Shyntar got the Belarussians within striking distance again. They could not take the last step however, and Spain got the final goal of the match instead as Berta Bonastre sent a cracking ball into the top of the net.

Spain had thus secured their ticket to the 2015 EuroHockey Championships, while Belarus are relegated to the second tier.

Pool C: Ireland – Scotland 1-3 (1-2)

In the early morning game, Scotland had defeated Ireland to maintain their place amongst Europe's top eight.

Coming from behind after Anna O'Flanagan got Ireland on the scoreboard first, Scotland pulled level through a penalty stroke converted by Catriona Ralph. Nikki Kidd followed up with a low flick for a penalty corner goal that established a 2-1 halftime lead.

Ireland had a string of opportunities towards the end of the match but Holly Cram had already finalized the 3-1 scoreline with another set piece goal, and Scotland walked of the field as the winner, relegating Ireland to Europe's second flight of nations.To follow the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships in more detail, please visit www.trifinanceeurohockey2013.be or www.eurohockey.org.

FIH site



Rabobank Hockey World Cup qualification joy for China women

2008 Olympic Silver medallists confirmed for 2014 showpiece



China finished 4th at the Investec World League Semi-Final in London (Photo: FIH / Stanislas Brochier)

Following the completion of the women’s tournament at the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships in Boom, Belgium,  the International Hockey Federation (FIH) can reveal that China have become the latest team to be confirmed as qualifiers for the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup.  The greatly anticipated joint men’s and women’s event takes place at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Netherlands from 31st May to 15th June next year.

China – who just missed out on direct World Cup qualification by finishing fourth at the recent Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final in London, England – were promoted from first reserves to guaranteed participants courtesy of Germany’s success in the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships on Saturday.

Like all of the continental championships, the big prize on offer at the Euros was direct qualification for next year’s Hockey World Cup. However, with Germany having already achieved World Cup qualification thanks to a first place finish at last month’s Hockey World League Semi-Final in Rotterdam, a ticket to the World Cup was immediately handed to first reserves China.

China become the eighth women’s team to qualify for the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup, with four more places up for grabs at the upcoming Asian, Oceania, Pan American and African continental championships.

More information about the women’s World Cup qualifiers and the qualifying process can be found below. An update regarding the men’s qualifiers for the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup will be released on Sunday following the completion of the men’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championship final.

Rabobank Hockey World Cup – Women’s Qualifiers.

Netherlands: Hosts
Australia: 1st place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final,  London (ENG)
England: 2nd place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final,  London (ENG)
Argentina: 3rd place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final,  London (ENG)
Germany:  Continental Champions Europe
Korea: 3rd place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
New Zealand: 4th place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED) *
China: 4th place – Investec Hockey World League Semi-Final, London (ENG) **

* Netherlands finished second in the Hockey World League Semi-Final event in Rotterdam.  As they are already pre-qualified as the host, this means that the highest ranked fourth place finisher from both Semi-Final events earns direct qualification to the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. This place goes to New Zealand, who were fourth in Rotterdam and currently sit third in the FIH World Rankings.
** China qualified as first reserve courtesy of Germany’s victory in the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships.

World Cup Qualification - The Next Stage

The remaining places at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup for women will be filled by the winners of the final four continental championships. However, if any of the above listed teams also becomes continental champion, this opens the door to the teams that finished outside the top three at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals that have not already qualified for the World Cup. These teams can be found below, in order of their placing in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals.  

Japan: 5th in Rotterdam / 2nd reserve for World Cup *
USA: 5th in London / 3rd reserve for World Cup *
Belgium: 6th in Rotterdam / 4th reserve for World Cup

* Japan named second reserve ahead of USA courtesy of a superior placing in the FIH World Rankings.

FIH Media release



England take silver as Germany win EuroHockey2013


England take a silver medal the 2013 EuroHockey Championships

The 2013 EuroHockey Final between Germany and England was one that will go down in history. The first half saw seven goals in exhilarating end to end hockey. As the sides went in at half-time England trailed by one goal, but they found the equaliser with just four minutes to go. With four goals apiece at the end of full-time it went to a penalty shoot-out to decide the champions.  After their shoot-out victory against the Netherlands on Thursday night there were high hopes for England, but Germany had other ideas and after scoring two from four and England failing to convert any of their chances the game was lost. It was a fantastic performance from England however and ranks as their best finish in a European Championship since 1991.

It was a rollercoaster of a first half which saw Georgie Twigg, Kate Walsh and Helen Richardson all register on the score sheet. Surbiton's Georgie Twigg got England off to a dream start when she converted a Kate Walsh Penalty Corner inside three minutes of play. But the lead didn't last long, almost immediately Germany equalised through another penalty corner and England lost their video referral after appealing the umpire's decision.

By the 8th minute there was another goal and England took the lead back from a trademark Kate Walsh penalty corner. At 1-2 the game was already turning into a bit of a spectacle and Germany were pushing hard to find the equaliser. In fact, they found both an equaliser and another, both came from Tina Bachmann who firstly fired home from a penalty corner and then a penalty stroke, both of which were dispatched with brilliant accuracy to take the score to 3-2.

All this had happened inside the first 22 minutes, and there were still two more goals to come from what was an exhilarating first-half. England drew back level to 3-3 thanks to Reading’s Helen Richardson, who capitalised on a rare mistake in the German defence. After picking up the loose pass she drove into the circle and expertly drilled home a reverse stick shot past Kim Platten in Germany’s goal. It seemed the sides would go in as they came out, with nothing to separate them, but in a cruel blow to England, Germany won a penalty corner in the final minute of the half which Hannah Kruger converted to give them a slender 4-3 lead.

Supporters in the stadium and fans at home just about had time to catch their breath before the sides came out for the second half, which proved to be a little quieter on the goal front. England searched hard for an equaliser, but Germany’s defence proved too strong for much of the half. With about 10 minutes left on the clock England enjoyed a period of sustained pressure and they were rewarded in the 66th minute with a crucial equaliser.  Great play from Alex Danson and Lily Owsley led to Reading’s Susie Gilbert getting her stick to the ball to deflect the shot home. At full-time the scores were level at 4-4 so a penalty shoot-out followed.

England lined up with the same players as against the Netherlands; Kate Walsh, Alex Danson, Laura Unsworth, Georgie Twigg and Helen Richardson, in that order, prepped for their shuffles, with Maddie Hinch in England’s goal. Unlike Thursday night however, this one didn’t go to plan as England were unable to convert their chances. Walsh, Danson, Unsworth and Twigg all saw their efforts saved and with Stockel and Teschke scoring for Germany the game was over. The final scored finished 4-4 and 2-0 to Germany in the shoot out delivering them the gold.

Holcombe’s Maddie Hinch was named as goalkeeper of the tournament following some world class performances throughout the week, which included helping England to beat the Netherlands in their semi-final match.

Speaking after the game England Head Coach Jason Lee said, “Well it was a brilliant game and I felt very privileged to be there with the girls. I don’t think I could have asked for more. It was a great day and it’s been a great tournament and actually as a coach I feel quite optimistic as I know there’s lots of room for improvement for us as a team. I feel very upbeat about the future and what this squad can do.”

England Captain Kate Walsh added her thoughts, “Congratulations to the German team, we knew it was going to be a close game, after it being so tight in the pool, and over the last few years we’ve had a lot of close encounters. There are not normally that many goals in finals, but it was an open game with both teams really going for it so I hope it made it very entertaining for the everyone to watch. We stuck at it and got the draw and I think we felt confident going into the shuffles, but it just didn’t go our way today.”

England youngster Hollie Webb was clearly disappointed with the result, but added "That's just a sign of how determined we are as a squad, and I know that there's so much more to come looking ahead. Yes I am gutted today, but I know when I look back on this tournament in a few weeks time, it will sink in how important it's been. We're just going to get better and better."

England will have a chance to go one better at EuroHockey 2015, which will be on home soil in London.

GERMANY 4 (4)
Eileen Hoffmann 4 (PC) 
Tina Bachmann 15, 22 (PC, PS) 
Hannah Kruger 34 (PC) 

ENGLAND 4 (3)
Georgie Twigg 3 (FG)
Kate Walsh 8 (PC)
Helen Richardson 30 (FG)
Susie Gilbert 66 (FG)

(Germany win 2-0 in a penalty shoot-out)

Click here to read the full match report.

For more information about the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships please visit the official website www.trifinanceeurohockey2013.be

England Hockey Board Media release



It’s shoot-out agony for England's women


Georgie Twigg gave England a great start to their first European final for 22 years

ENGLAND were denied gold by Germany in a penalty shoot-out after a 4-4 draw in the women’s Euro Championship final.

Georgie Twigg gave England a great start to their first European final for 22 years, flicking in the rebound to a Kate Walsh corner.

But the Germans went on to win the shoot-out 2-0 at Boom in Belgium, with England’s first four penalty takers all denied.

Sunday Express



Germany beat England – on penalties

Title dreams dashed as women's team's first European final for 22 years is hit by shoot-out jinx

Tom Cooper


It could have been Boom but it turned out bust, an outcome seasoned English sports fans should have predicted the moment the game went to a penalty shoot-out here in this small Belgian town.

Inevitably, given the long history of failure against Germany in situations of sporting sudden death, England came up just short when it mattered most in the final of the European Championship, their quest for a first major hockey title in 22 years sadly unfulfilled.

But no one could say they had not given their all, with Susie Gilbert touching in a goal to level the scores at 4-4 with just four minutes to play. But in the shoot-out Germany's keeper, Kim Platten, kept out four of England's attempts to win it 2-0.

Afterwards there was disappointment but also talk of a young team with much more to come. "I am gutted," said 18-year-old forward Lily Owsley, who has only just received her A-level results. "It is almost worse that we were so close to winning gold. But it's a home Europeans in two years and we'll win gold then."

When defender Kate Walsh, now 33, won bronze in her first European Championship as a 19-year-old, little did she expect that medal in Cologne would be the first in a string of six European bronzes. "We have so many bronze medals," she said after yesterday's defeat. "You feel quite happy when you win a bronze medal because you have won your last game. Now you feel like you have lost gold rather than won silver and you feel down.

"But if you look at this squad that only came together in April and look at how young it is and what it has achieved, it is fantastic. I look at the other teams and think we have way more to give and far farther to go. That is just so exciting."

Both teams seemed to be feeling the nerves in a first half yesterday that produced seven goals. Those nerves were understandable in England's case, as it was their first European final since they won this title in 1991.

The omens were good for England, though: that championship was also in Belgium, Germany were also their final opponents and, as in Boom, they defeated the Dutch in a shoot-out in the semi-finals.

However, a 22-year winless streak takes some ending, especially with the scars stretching back into the last century for some of the squad. The only championship where Walsh missed out on a medal was Barcelona in 2003. A 17-year-old team-mate from the 2009 bronze-medal winning team, Helen Richardson, also remains in the side. She has four European bronze medals.

Richardson and Walsh both chipped in with goals yesterday, as did another Great Britain 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, Georgie Twigg.

But Walsh and Twigg also saw their shoot-out attempts saved – in hockey these are one-on-ones with the goalkeeper, with eight seconds to score from the 25-yard line. At least this time England players have a silver medal to polish.

Walsh and Richardson have hung on, despite the disappointments, in a game which tests the nerves and body to the limits. Richardson has had the worse luck with injuries, including a serious ankle injury early in her career and a back operation earlier this year which saw her in doubt for this championship. The relentless pounding on artificial surfaces is tough on backs and knees and there is also the potential for serious impact injuries from ball and stick.

Walsh knows the dangers all too well, having been hit in the jaw by a stick playing for Great Britain in London. She returned to the field six days later with a titanium plate in her jaw to steer her side to that bronze medal.

Back then, after the 2-1 semi-final loss to world champions Argentina, Walsh was seen consoling a tearful Richardson after their gold-medal dream faded. Walsh has had her tearful moments too – notably when she missed a penalty stroke in a semi-final shoot-out against the Dutch in the 2010 World Cup in Argentina.

Walsh, who needed a nerve block to kill the pain of that fractured jaw back in London, returned to her nerveless best in Boom, throwing herself into tackles with no less enthusiasm than she did in Germany 14 years ago. Richardson was at her combative best for the semi-final defeat of the Olympic champions, Holland.

Helping to heal the scars has been the influx of post-Olympic new blood, undamaged by those years of near-misses, to refresh the squad. Foremost among these is Owsley, who had a hand in England's equaliser yesterday, nudging Ashleigh Ball's shot into the path of Gilbert.

Then the skies opened for the shoot-out. England goalkeeper Maddie Hinch – hero of Thursday's win over the Dutch – produced two good saves, but it wasn't enough as Walsh, Alex Danson, Laura Unsworth and Twigg all failed to score.

There was, however, some consolation for Hinch – she was named keeper of the tournament.

England Hinch; Unsworth, Macleod, Twigg, Richardson, Townsend, Walsh, Quek, Ansley, Webb, Owsley.

Germany Platten; Bachmann, Hasselmann, Hoffman, Haase, Kruger, Bachmann, Plass, Hauke, Stockel, Muller-Wieland, Muller.

The Independent



Scots secure European status with magnificent Ireland win


Scotland players walk off with European target achieved. Credit: Frank Uiljenbroek

Scotland Senior Women have retained their place in the EuroHockey Nations Championship after a fantastic 3-1 win over Ireland this morning.

Goals from Cat Ralph, Nikki Kidd and Holly Cram ensured that the Scots will compete at this level in two years time when the competition will be staged in London.

Speaking after the match Scotland Senior Women Head Coach Gordon Shepherd said, "We're absolutely delighted to be staying in the competition. The players, the coaches, the volunteers and supporters here have all been fantastic throughout the competition and this is where Scotland belongs.

"We still have a few things to work on but the girls have played some fantastic hockey this week and should be proud. There is still more to come from Scotland."


Scotland players celebrate at full-time. Credit: Frank Uiljenbroek

With Scotland requiring only a draw to ensure European survival, it was Ireland who embarked on the early offensive, winning a penalty corner within the first five minutes. Luckily for the Scots, Cliodhna Sargent's attempt drifted wide of the right hand post off Kareena Marshall's defensive intervention.

Scotland goalkeeper Amy Gibson was called into action in the ninth minute, making a routine save from Gillian Pinder's shot on target, before the Scottish number one was off her line quickly to prevent Naomi Carroll letting loose on goal ten minutes later.

However, persistent Irish pressure paid off in the 21st minute when neat interplay between Nikki Symmons, Pinder and Alex Speers led to Anna O'Flanagan having the simplest task of tapping the ball into the emply net to leave the Scots trailing at 1-0.

Scotland responded strongly and won a crucial penalty corner in the 26th minute. Cat Ralph's strike was well saved by Ireland goalkeeper Emma Gray but Niamh Atcheler was adjudged to have fouled inside the circle and Scotland were awarded a penalty stroke. Up stepped Ralph to calmly stroke the ball past Gray to level the match at 1-1.

Three minutes later, a foul on Vikki Bunce led to another Scottish penalty corner and Nikki Kidd made no mistake as she rattled the ball past Gray for a 2-1 lead.

Another Gibson save from an Ireland penalty corner on the stroke of half-time made sure that the Scots went into the break with an important one goal cushion.


Morag McLellan on the march against Ireland in Belgium. Credit: Frank Uiljenbroek

Indeed, Scotland could have extended that one goal margin shortly after the interval when they were awarded a penalty stroke for an illegal use of the foot at a penalty corner.

However, Ralph's strike from the sport agonisingly cannoned off the outside of the left hand post and Ireland were left to breath again.

The goal that eventually made sure that Scotland would keep their place in the elite division came when a penalty corner was awarded for a push on captain Linda Clement in the 50th minute.

The injection was played to Kidd who, instead of going for a direct shot on goal, played the ball to Holly Cram at the back post and the Clydesdale Western striker swept the ball past Gray into the net to make it 3-1.


Holly Cram sweeps home the ball to give Scotland a third goal. Credit: Frank Uiljenbroek

Nikki Lloyd almost made it 4-1 when her cheeky lift over Gray came back off the right hand post in the 55th minute, while Skrastin also came close with a low drive at the Ireland 'keeper.

Ireland visibly tired during the last ten minutes and it was obvious that they had given enough to the contest, allowing Scotland to take the pace out of the game.

As the full-time hooter sounded, cue celebrations among the players, coaches and management staff; a result and outcome that rewards Scotland for months of hard work, training and commitment.

Scotland retain their place in the EuroHockey Nations Championship and will travel to London in two years time to take their place amongst Europe's elite.


Scotland Senior Women Head Coach Gordon Shepherd and Cat Ralph. Credit: Frank Uiljenbroek

To find out more about Scotland's final position and their results, please visit the EuroHockey 2013 website.

Scotland Senior Women: Amy Gibson (Clydesdale Western), Nicola Cochrane (Edinburgh University), Vikki Bunce (Dundee Wanderers), Morag McLellan (Clydesdale Western), Alison Bell (Grove Menzieshill), Catriona Ralph (Clydesdale Western), Samantha Judge (Edinburgh University), Holly Cram (Clydesdale Western), Linda Clement (Captain, Grove Menzieshill), Kareena Marshall (Western Wildcats), Leigh Fawcett (Grove Menzieshill), Rebecca Merchant (Edinburgh University), Nikki Kidd (Edinburgh University), Susan McGilveray (Clydesdale Western), Nicola Lloyd (Sevenoaks), Alison Howie (Clydesdale Western), Nicola Skrastin (Clydesdale Western), Emily Maguire (Reading)

Scottish Hockey Union media release



Ireland 1-3 Scotland (w) European Hockey

Ireland's Electric Ireland Hockey Team closed out their final match of the European Championships with a 3-1 loss against Scotland this morning, the result of which sees them relegated to Division B.

The match saw Ireland dominate both possession and penalty corner chances but with the  elusive finishing touch evading the Green Army and Scotland on converting form it was not going to be Ireland's day.

Ireland opened well bossing the first ten minutes and their persistence paid off when a well worked piece of attacking play set Anna O'Flangan up to slot home at close range. Ireland maintained their lead for ten minutes before Cat Ralph converted the penalty stroke which was awarded in the aftermath of a penalty corner routine.  Just moments later Scotland took the lead when Nikki Kidd converted her side's second penalty corner giving her side the edge as the break came.

Just three minutes into the second half Scotland had a golden chance to further extend their lead with a penalty stroke chance but Ralph for Scotland was denied by the upright. Ireland upped their pace chasing goals and enjoyed the majority of attacking play and penalty corners but they just couldn't find the back of the net to close the gap.

Scotland put the game beyond Ireland's reach in the 51st minute when Holly Cram converted a well worked penalty corner routine to make it 3-1 in favour of Scotland.

Ireland fought it out until the final whistle but despite their efforts they find themselves in the bottom two alongside Belarus meaning relegation into the B division.

Coach Darren Smith summed up the match saying "It was always going to be a tough match Scotland are a good side and we have had close battles over the years so we expected a lot of passion and commitment from both sides, which we saw today. Our inability to convert penalty corners has cost us throughout this tournament - we had 8 penalty corners today and we weren't able to get a meaningful shot on target. Scotland took their chances well and you have to give them credit on how they managed to put the goals away."

He continued recognising the level of commitment from the Irish team "Our girls worked incredibly hard and are such committed young ladies and it's gutting not to be able to quite get things together."

Ireland's men take on the Czech Republic tomorrow (Sunday) at 10am Irish Time

IRELAND 1 (1) Anna O'Flanagan 20m OP
SCOTLAND 3 (2) Cat Ralph 26m PS; Nikki Kidd 30m PC; Holly Cram 51m PC

Starting XI Ireland: Emma Gray, Alex Speers (capt), Shirley McCay, Megan Frazer, Naomi Carroll, Nikki Symmons, Audrey O'Flynn, Chloe Watkins, Niamh Atcheler, Anna O'Flanagan, Gillian Pinder
Reserves Ireland: Cliodhna Sargent, Emma Smyth, Lisa Jacob, Niamh Small, Nicci Daly, Nicola Gray, Grace O'Flanagan
Starting XI Scotland: A Gibson, V Bunce, A Bell, C Ralph, H Cram, L Clement, K Marshall, L Fawcett, R Merchant, N Kidd, E Maguire

Irish Hockey Association media release



India whip Oman for eight in opening tie of Group B



IPOH: India started their Asia Cup campaign with a  8-0 win over Oman at the Azlan Shah Stadium in a Group B tie.

The Indians fighting for World Cup survival were in no mood for charity and got off with a goal as early as the fourth minute through Mandeep Singh. He went on to score a hattrick in the 40th and 44th minutes.

Oman is making its debut in the Asia Cup as they normally feature in the second tier AHF cup. They were no match for the skilful Indians who dominated the match.

The meeting between the two teams is also their fifth with the last match-up earlier this year in the World Hockey League Round Two. India won the match 9-1.

Ramandeep Singh, V. Ramachandra and  Rupinder Singh add to the tally in the 17th, 28th and 34th minute respectively for a 4-0 first half tally.

Sannuavanda scored the last goal in the 69th minute. India’s Mandeep Singh was named man-of-the-match.

Official Asia Cup site



First half goals give Pakistan a cracking start

IPOH: Former champions Pakistan started their Asia Cup campaign in Group A with a 7-0 win over Japan at the Azlan Shah Stadium.

The Pakistanis scored all their goals in the first half and kept the Japanese at bay in the second to romp home easy winners.

Pakistan needs to win the Asia Cup to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Holland. The match was expected to be a close encounter after Japan’s impressive showing in the World League semi-finals in Johor Baru last month.

But the Pakistanis welcoming back Salman Akhbar in goal and midfielder Waseem Ahmad were in top form in the first half.

Muhammad Waqas started the rout in the 13th minute when he scored a field goal. And he was again on target with another field attempt in the 20th minute to put the team in a commanding position.

The return of Waseem Ahmad gave the Pakistanis more bite in their attacking moves.

Youngster Abdul Haseem Khan then added the third goal in the 22nd minute. This was followed by a three-goal blast from the penalty corner set piece move to give the Pakistanis a 6-0 first half lead.

Muhammad Toussiq scored a brace in the 25th and 35th minutes with a hefty drag flick while skipper Muhammad Imran was on target in the 33rd minute and 70th

The Pakistanis relaxed their play in the second half and this allowed the Japanese to hold out for a scoreless second half. Waqas was named man-of-the-match.

Official Asia Cup site



Malaysia romp to a 10-2 win over Chinese-Taipei



Ipoh: Host Malaysia were in fine form to dispatch Chinese-Taipei 10-2 in their opening Group A match in the 9th Asia Cup at the Azlan Shah Stadium.  

In a display of attacking hockey the Malaysians left no doubt about their intentions in the tournament.

The Malaysians have a World Cup berth in hand but are determined to win the Asia Cup for the first time ever. Their best ever placing in the Asia Cup series was third place in 2007 in Chennai.

Chinese Taipei gave the home side an early jolt when they took the lead just three minutes into the game.

Liu Chin-Kun scored field goal in a quick counter attack. But that served to wake up the Malaysians as they searched for the opening goal.

Malaysia’s top striker Faizal Saari provide the breakthrough with a penalty corner goal in the 11th minute and two minutes later added the second from a field attempt.

National junior Mohamd Firhan Azhaari then scored the third goal in the 18th minute off a field attempt and it was followed by defender Mohamed Razie Rahim scoring off a penalty corner.

Mohamed Marhan Mohamed Jalil then made it 5-1 in the 32nd minute as the Malaysians walked off at half time comfortably in the lead.

The Malaysians did not let up in the second half and Izwan Firdaus was on target in the 39th minute for goal number six.

Nabil Fiqri Mohamed Nor added the seventh goal in the 46th minute but a defensive lapse a minute later by the Malaysians allowed their opponents to grab another goal.

Tseng Hsieh-Yi scored from a field attempt in the 47th minute.

But the Malaysians recovered and scored three more goals for a 10-2 win.

Mohamed Fitiri Saari was on target in the 62nd minute while Firhan scored his second goal in the 67th minute.

Faizal Saari then ended the match with a hattrick when he scored a field goal in the 69th minute.

Malaysia will play Pakistan today while Chinese-Taipei will play Japan. The man-of-the-match is Mohamed Firhan Azhaari.

Official Asia Cup site



Malaysia 10 Taiwan 2

By Jugjet Singh

MALAYSIA hit 50th ranked Taiwan 10-2 in their opening Asia Cup encounter at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh yesterday.

The win was expected, but not the two easy goals which they let in, and now Paul Revington's men must prove their worth against Pakistan today to cement their intention of making waves in the Asian region.

Malaysian players, as well as coaching staff, wore a blue jersey with number 3, and the name Chua printed at the back during the 30 minutes warm-up before the Taiwan match.

This was in appreciation to the 337 capped Chua Boon Huat, a Malaysian record, who died in a car accident recently, and a one-minute silence was held in his memory.

But the start of the match was not rosy, as Taiwan's No 3 Liu Ching Kun drove a sizzler off their first attack in the fourth minute to beat goalkeeper S. Kumar for their first recent international goal against Malaysia.

For the record, Malaysia hammered Taiwan 17-0 in the  Intercontinental Cup in Ipoh in 1988, and 9-0 in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

But there was never a doubt that Malaysia would win the match, and Faizal Saari started the goal-count with a low penalty corner flick in the 10th minute and then scored the second in the 12th.

The other goals were scored by Firhan Ashaari (18th, 19th, 67th),  Marhan Jalil (32nd), Izwan Firdaus (40th), Nabil Fiqri (45th), Fitri Saari (62nd).

Faizal started the rout, and then nailed the 10th goal in the 69th minute.

The second Taiwan goal was scored by Hsien-Yi Tseng in the 46th minute.

Pakistan's seasoned player Shakeel Abbasi, who played for Maybank in the Malaysia Hockey League, feels that very little separates Malaysia and his side.

"It will be a tough game as this is our third meeting in one month (4-4 draw and Malaysian win 3-1), and all the players know each other very well. I believe the match outcome will be decided by flashes or brilliance by an individual from either side.

"However, my team played very well against Japan today, and I hope to carry forward the momentum 24 hours from now," said Shakeel.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan signalled their intention of claiming the Asia Cup gold when they too went on a whipping spree.

India demolished Oman 8-0 in Group B, while Pakistan hit Japan 7-0 in Group A.

The India goals were scored by Mandeep Singh (fourth, 40th, 44th), Ramandeep Singh (17th), V. Raghunath (28th), Rupinder Pal Singh (34th), Malak Singh (47th) and S.Uthappa (69th).

And the Pakistan goals were hammered in by Muhammad Waqas (12th, 20th), Haseem Khan (22nd), Muhammad Tausiq (25th, 35th), Muhammad Imran (33rd, 70th).

STANDINGS
Group A:
P  W  D  L  F  A  Pts
MALAYSIA   1   1    0   0  10  2  3
PAKISTAN   1   1    0   0  7  0  3
JAPAN         1   0    0   1  0  7  0
TAIWAN       1   0    0   1  2  10  0

Group B
P  W  D  L  F  A  Pts

INDIA           1   1    0   0  8  0  3
S KOREA    0   0    0   0  0  0  0
B'DESH       0   0    0   0  0  0  0
OMAN          1   0    0   1  0  8  0

RESULTS -- India 8 Oman 0, Pakistan 7 Japan 0, Malaysia 10 Taiwan 2.
FIXTURES -- Sunday: South Korea v Bangladesh (4pm), Japan v Taiwan (6pm), Pakistan v Malaysia (8pm).

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey



Malaysia blast 10 past Taiwan in Boon Huat tribute

By AFTAR SINGH



Malaysia’s Faizal Saari smashing the ball past Taiwan goalkeeper Chen Yen Ting during their Asia Cup Group A match. Malaysia won 10-2. - RONNIE CHIN / The Star

IPOH: The Malaysian and Taiwanese hockey teams, and all present at the Azlan Shah Stadium, stood in silence to pay tribute to the late Chua Boon Huat.

The 33-year-old Malacca-born Boon Huat, who had represented Malaysia 337 times, died in a car crash on Aug 1.

And coach Paul Revington’s men paid homage to hockey’s favourite late son with a near perfect performance – thumping Taiwan 10-2 in their Asia Cup Group A match.

But it was world No. 50 Taiwan who shocked Malaysia when they took the lead in the third minute.

Liu Ching-kun collected a through pass and caught the Malaysian defence napping before blasting the ball from the top D past goalkeeper S. Kumar.

That woke up world No. 13 Malaysia from their slumber.

Diminutive forward Faizal Saari and man-of-the-match Mohd Firhan Ashaari bagged a hat-trick each. Faizal got his in the 10th, 12th and 70th minutes while Firhan notched his in the 18th, 19th and 67th minutes.

Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil (32nd), Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin (40th), Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor (45th) and Mohd Fitri Saari (62nd) chipped in with a goal apiece.

Taiwan’s second goal was scored by Tseng Hsien-yi in the 46th minute.

It was Malaysia’s third big win over Taiwan, having hammered them 17-0 in the Intercontinental Cup here in 1988 and 9-0 in the 2006 Doha Asian Games group match.

Despite the big win, Malaysia need to bolster their defence, especially after lapses in concentration saw them conceding two goals.

Malaysia face an acid test against three-time champions Pakistan today and can’t afford to be so charitable.

Revington’s men need a win over Pakistan to seal a place in the semi-finals.

But Pakistan, who humiliated Japan 7-0 yesterday, look to be the favourites.

Malaysia last played Pakistan in the World League semi-finals in Johor Baru last month. Although Malaysia led 4-1 in a group match, Pakistan hit back to draw 4-4. The two teams met again in the playoff for the fifth to eighth placing and Malaysia won 3-1.

National coach Paul Revington was disappointed with his team for conceding the two goals.

“We cannot afford such defensive lapses against Pakistan, who will be going all out against us as they want to win the tournament (and qualify for the World Cup in The Hague, Holland, next year),” said the South African coach.

“We need to work on some areas and make sure the players move the ball better against Pakistan. It’s never easy playing against them.”

The Star of Malaysia



Pakistan smash Japan for seven

By AFTAR SINGH



Pakistan’s Waqas Muhammad (mid) passed through Japan Shiokawa Naoto and Hatakeyama Manabu during their Asia Cup match. Pakistan won 7-0 with six goals in the first half. - RONNIE CHIN / The Star

IPOH: Pakistan have issued a stern warning to Malaysia that they mean business in the Asia Cup.

Three-time Asia Cup champions Pakistan humiliated Japan 7-0 in their opening Group A match at the Azlan Shah Stadium on Saturday.

Pakistan, the four-time World Cup champions, took a 6-0 lead in the first-half.

It was the biggest margin of defeat for the Japanese team in the tournament.

What was really surprising is that Japan finished sixth in the World League semi-finals in Johor Baru last month while Pakistan ended up seventh in the eight-team tournament.

Pakistan, who must win the Asia Cup to qualify for next year’s World Cup in The Hague, Holland, face Malaysia on Sunday.

Japan’s defence, led by skipper Koji Kayukawa, was torn to shreds by Pakistan in the first-half.

Pakistan forward Waqas Muhammad was the man-of-the match with a two-goal performance.

His gave Pakistan the lead off their first penalty corner in the 12th minute before scoring from close range eight minutes later.

Japan goalkeeper Akira Morishima was beaten for the third time in the 22nd minute by Abdul Haseem Khan.

A brace each from Tousiq Muhammad (25th, 35th) and skipper Muhammad Imran (33rd, 70th) ended the rout.

Pakistan forward Shakeel Abbasi clearly delighted with the comprehensive victory.

“It was a morale boosting win for us. The win has inspired us to go all out to get the better of Malaysia tomorrow (today),” said the 30-year-old, who has 355 international caps to his credit.

“Malaysia have home ground advantage and been playing well lately. But we’re all fired up to give our best against them and qualify for the semi-finals.”

In the first match of the day, India skipper Sardar Singh, who was hospitalised here with a throat infection on Monday, led his team to convincing 8-0 win over hapless Oman in a Group B match.

Mandeep Singh netting a hat-trick in the 4th, 40th and 44th minutes. Ramandeep Singh (17th), V.R. Raghunath ((28th), Rupinder Pal Singh (34th), Malak Singh (47th) and S.K. Uthappa (69th) rounded off the scoring.

India, who also must win to qualify for next year’s World Cup, have a day’s rest before taking on defending champions South Korea tomorrow.

The Star of Malaysia



India begins on a buoyant note

S. Thyagarajan



India's Gurmail Singh weaves past an Omani defender in the Asia Cup on Saturday.

India began its quest for a berth in the World Cup on a buoyant note in the Asia Cup hockey championship on Saturday. The 8-0 win against Oman in Pool B projected a modicum of rhythm and consistency even granting the fact that it was Oman’s first appearance in this competition.

Too much of a dissection over the outcome can lead to a distorted picture. Roelant Oltmans, head coach, observed just that in the post match briefing.

He agreed the win was an encouraging sign, but was candid enough to concede the team swayed away from concentrating more in the final minutes.

He underlined the fact that the team had netted four goals in each half and expressed happiness over the field goals by Mandeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh.

The pre-match apprehension that Sardar Singh was unwell to the point of skipping the opener proved a baseless alarm. He was very much on the field and showed no signs of fatigue or illness.

In fact, he exhibited glimpses of his proficiency in feeding the forwards among whom Nithin Thimmiah shaped well. The lithe forward slithered through the defenders quite a few times displaying delectable body dodges.

What stood out in the show of Mandeep Singh, declared the man of the match, was his sense of opportunism. And the same was true for Ramandeep Singh. In the mid-field Chinglensana and Dharamvir were conspicuous as were Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohitdass.

While scoring was never difficult against the Omani defenders, there were moments which remained etched in the mind.

The reverse flick for the fifth goal by Mandeep off a centre from Chenglensana was eye catching as the impeccable penalty corner by Rupinder Pal Singh.

Former champion Pakistan came up with a stunning first half display slamming six goals against Japan in Pool A and finished the encounter 7-0.

With an exit from the World Cup staring in the face Pakistan looks determined to recapture the top spot, a must if it is to be at The Hague.

Two splendid goals by Waqas triggered a sort of a goal-riot as Japan’s defenders looked like babes in the wood. True, they did recover in the second half but it was too late to make an impression.

Debutant Chinese Taipei shocked many by scoring first against host Malaysia before bowing to the pressure exerted by stars like Faisal Saari and Muhammad Firhan who scored three goals each, in Pool A. Malaysia won eventually 10-2.

The results: Pool A: Pakistan 7 (Waqas Muhammad 2, Abdul Hashim Khan, Tousiq Muhammad 2, Muhammad Imran 2) bt Japan 0.

Malaysia 8 (Faisal Saari 3, Muhammad Firhan 3, Muhammad Marhan, Izwan Firdus, Nabil Fiqri, Muhammad Fitri) bt Chinese Taipei 2 (Lue Ching Kun, Tseng Hsien Yi) HT 5-1.

Pool B: India 8 (Mandeep Singh 2, Ramandeep Singh 2, Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh, Malak Singh, Uthappa) beat Oman 0.

Sunday’s matches: Korea v Bangladesh (1.35 p.m.), Japan v Chinese Taipei (3.35 p.m.); Pakistan v Malaysia (5.35 p.m.).

The Hindu



Mandeep scores a hat-trick as India crush Oman 8-0 in Asia Cup

IPOH (Malaysia): Young striker Mandeep Singh netted a hat-trick as India blanked minnows Oman 8-0 to start their 9th Asia Cup Hockey Championship campaign on a perfect note at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium on Saturday.

The Indian team indulged in 'Goal Fest' as they scored four apiece on either side of the break.

For the winners, Mandeep (4th minute, 40th, 44th) struck thrice, while Ramandeep (17th), VR Raghunath (28th), Rupinderpal Singh (34th), Malak Singh (47th) and SK Uthappa (69th) sounded the board once.

Knowing fully well that winning the Asia Cup would guarantee a place in next year's World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands, the Indians meant business from the onset and concentrated mainly on building formations.

The Indians were expected to control the proceedings against Oman and they did exactly that as the play was mostly centred around the Oman half.

After starting on a rather casual note, the Indians soon tightened up their grip over Oman and mounted continuous raids.

In the opening half, majority of India's build ups came from the right flank with Ramandeep Singh and Malak Singh combining well.

But penalty corner conversion still seems to be a worry for India as they utilised just two out of the six that came their way in the entire duration of 70 minutes.

The Indians earned their first penalty corner as early as in the third minute but Rupinderpal's flick was saved by Oman goalkeeper Al Noufali Fahad Khamis Salmeen. But an opportunistic Mandeep scored from the resultant rebound to give India a 1-0 lead.

India doubled their lead in the 17th minute through an unmarked Ramandeep who scored after receiving a Malak assist from the right flank.

India earned a penalty in the 28th minute when Nithin Thimmaiah was brought down inside the Oman circle and VR Raghunath made no mistake from the spot to make the scoreline 3-0 in favour of the Indians.

India could have scored another in the next minute but Rupinder's reverse hit from inside the 'D' was saved by the Oman custodian.

Just a minute from the breather, India increased their lead through Rupinder who converted the team's fifth penalty corner with a high flick that crashed on to the top right of the Oman goal.

It was no different after the change of ends as India continued their domination over Oman.

It took India just five minutes into the second half to find the back of the net, Mandeep scored his second goal of the day with a perfect reverse flick after being fed by a cross from Chinglensana Singh.

Mandeep was again at the thick of things as four minutes later he scored his third goal of the day after receiving a pass from Ramandeep.

Three minutes later, it was Malak's turn to register his name in the score-sheet after Dharamvir intial shot was saved by the Oman goalkeeper.

A diving Uthappa rounded off the tally a minute from the hooter by tapping home Malak's cross from the right flank.

After a rest day on Sunday, India will play title holders Korea in the second Pool B match on August 26.

The Times of India



Pakistan tame Japan 7-0, Malaysia maul Chinese Taipei 10-2

IPOH (Malaysia): Pakistan thrashed Japan 7-0, while hosts Malaysia demolished debutant Chinese Taipei 10-2 in their respective Pool A matches of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament on Saturday.

In the first Pool A encounter, Pakistan started on a bright note and raced to a 6-0 lead in the first half before the Japanese came up with a spirited effort in the second period to concede just one goal.

Surprisingly, the Japanese defence crumbled like a pack of cards in front of the ever-attacking Pakistanis in the first half with Muhammad Waqas (12th, 20th), Abdul Haseem Khan (22nd), Muhammad Tousiq (25th, 35th) and captain Muhammad Imran (33rd) handing a comfortable lead to their side at the lemon break.

But it was completely different scenario after the break as Pakistan found it extremely difficult to breach the Japanese defence, which seemed to have learnt from its' mistakes.

After toiling hard for the entire second half, Pakistan managed to score another goal at the stroke of the hooter through their skipper Imran who converted a penalty corner.

Pakistan's dominance can be gauged from the fact that they scored five of their goals from penalty corners while the other two came through field efforts.

Meanwhile, in the second Pool A match of the day which witnessed high-scoring encounters, Malaysia was in for a rude shock early in the game when Chinese Taipei took the lead against the run of the mill through Liu Ching Kun (5th minute).

Stunned by the early goal, the Malaysians regrouped themselves quickly and did not give any more easy inroads to Chinese Taipei. The home team scored goals at will thereafter to rule out the possibility of an upset.

Malaysia scored five goals in each through Faizal Sari (10th minute, 13th, 69th), Ashaari Muhammad Firhan (18th, 69th), Abdul Jalil Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (23rd), Mohd Jalil Muhammad Marhan (32nd), Ahmad Tajuddin Izwan Firdaus (39th), Mohd Noor Nabil Fiqri (45th) and Sari Mohd Fitri (62nd).

Chinese Taipei's second goal came in the 46th minute from the stick of Tseng Hsien-Yi.

Malaysia will next play Pakistan tomorrow, while Chinese Taipei will be up against Japan.

The Times of India



Malaysia remember Chua Boon Huat ahead of Asia Cup opener

IPOH (Malaysia): As a mark of respect to the departed soul of Malaysia's longest-serving hockey player, Chua Boon Huat, one-minute silence was observed before the start of the Asia Cup match between the home team and Chinese Taipei on Saturday.

Chua, as he was fondly called, died in a car crash on August 1 while the team was preparing for the ongoing Asia Cup.

The Malaysian Hockey Confederation had already rested the number three jersey, which Chua used to wear, for the Asia Cup in memory of the late defender.

Chua was one of the highly-decorated hockey players of Malaysia.

Under Paul Lissek, he made his debut for the national team as a 17-year-old in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Chua, who had more than 321 caps for Malaysia, had played in major competitions such as the World Cup, Olympics, Champions Trophy, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Asia Cup.

He was also the skipper of the 2001 National Junior team which featured in the Junior World Cup in Hobart.

The Times of India



We were a bit sloppy in second half: Oltmans

IPOH (Malaysia): A comprehensive win might have been achieved, but India's interim coach Roelant Oltmans feels his team was a bit sloppy in the second half of its Asia Cup hockey tournament opener against Oman on Saturday.

"It was a regular win. We played very well in the first half, but in the second half we were a bit sloppy. But it happens because it is difficult to give your 100 per cent concentration throughout the match, especially when you are 7-0, 8-0 up. The heat took a toll on us (in the second half)," the coach said after the Indians posted an 8-0 win at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium.

"But I am happy with the overall performance. It's always nice to get on the points tally."

Oltmans lauded captain Sardar Singh, saying that if fully fit, the mid-fielder will play a crucial role in deciding the team's fortunes in the tournament here.

Oltmans said he went against his own instinct and opted to play Sardar in India's opening Pool B match against the minnows to give the star mid-fielder ample time to get back to full shape before the business end of the tournament.

"I spoke to him last night as well as this morning and I must say he recovered very well from his throat problems. We all know Sardar in great shape will be important for us in the last stage of the tournament," the Dutchman said.

"So to bring him up in great shape he needs his minutes to play so we decided to play him 10 minutes in each half and we will build that up slowly up.

"Sardar is a great player when he is great shape. He can create a lot of opportunities for us. Our aim is to bring him a lot closer to the goal of the opponent," he said.

Oltmans made it clear that he will play Sardar in phases during the entire tournament.

"Sardar will never play the entire 70 minutes. That is one of the reasons why he got injured. For the last four years he has been playing continuously. In modern hockey you can't play 70 minutes. It will kill the body," he said.

India had an injury scare in the last 10 minutes of the match today when Manpreet Singh was carried off the field because of a muscle strain, but Oltmans said it was more of a precautionary move.

"Manpreet's injury is nothing too serious. He was stretching too much to score a goal and suffered a strain. As a precaution we pulled him off the field. Manpreet will be fine. He has got a full day to recover tomorrow," he said.

India will take on title-holders Korea in their next Pool B match on August 26, and Oltmans admitted that it will be a tough encounter for his boys.

"There is no doubt that Korea is a very tough opponent. They showed that by becoming the first Asian team to qualify for the World Cup. We have to play at least as good as today or may be even better against Korea," he signed off.

The Times of India



Korea test awaits India in Asia Cup

IPOH: Their campaign off to a flying start, under-pressure India will face a litmus test when they take on defending champions South Korea in their second Pool B match of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament on Monday.

India, who desperately need to win the Asia Cup to qualify for next year's World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, started their campaign on a rousing note, thumping minnows Oman 8-0 in their opening pool match at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium yesterday.

But it won't be a stroll in the park for the 11th-ranked Indians against the quicksilver South Koreans, who will desperate to assert their supremacy in the eight-nation event by defending their title here.

Having already qualified for the World Cup after being promoted from first reserves to guaranteed participants recently, courtesy Argentina's title win in the Pan American continental championship, the Koreans will look to spoil the party of arch-rivals India and Pakistan.

For the eight-time Olympic champions, India, and neighbours Pakistan, it is a do-or-die situation as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971.

But having made a bright start to the tournament, the Indians would be hoping to carry on the momentum in the coming matches.

In the absence of the quartet of Danish Mujtaba, SV Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh -- all out of the tournament due to injuries --, the inexperienced Indian forwardline comprising Mandeep Singh, Nithin Thimmaiah, Malak Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah impressed all and sundry against Oman yesterday.

Young Mandeep scored three field goals against Oman while debutant Ramandeep and Malak also shone brightly with their sticks.

The most heartening thing about the victory over Oman was that India scored five field goals. The midfield led, by inspirational captain Sardar Singh, and the forwardline combined well and concentrated on building formations against Oman.

And India would look to play on similar lines against Korea tomorrow, albeit with a few changes in the strategy as indicated by interim coach Roelant Oltmans.

"There would be a few changes in terms of strategy (against Korea) but I won't reveal what re they," Oltmans said after the win against Oman.

However, India's backline, which is the team's perennial problem, was not tested against Oman and it remains to be be seen how the likes of V R Raghunath, Rupinderpal Singh, debutant Amit Rohidas, Kothajit Singh, Birendra Lakra and Gurmail Singh fare under constant pressure of the nimble-footed Koreans.

With hardly anything to do against Oman, vice-captain and goalkeeper P R will be up for some tough time against the Koreans tomorrow.

Going by the overall head-to-head record between the two teams, Korea have a clear upperhand. Out of the 68 encounters between the two countries so far, Korea have won 30 while India emerged victorious in 26 matches with 12 games ending in draws.

But in the Asia Cup two-time champions India boast of a superior record. Out of the eight matches in the tournament between the two nations, India have won five, lost two while one ended in a draw.

The road to the semifinals, however, is not much of a problem for India. India are placed in a relatively easy Pool B along side Korea, Bangladesh and Oman while Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan and Chinese-Taipei complete the Pool A line-up.

A win tomorrow against Korea would guarantee India's place in the semifinals, but a draw would also be enough to see them through as the Sardar Singh-led side will play minnows Bangladesh in their last pool engagement.

India's interim coach Oltmans too admitted that Korea would be a tough nut to crack.

"There is no doubt about the fact that Korea is a very tough opponent. They showed that by becoming the first Asian team to qualify for the World Cup," he had said.

"We have to play at least as good as we played against Oman or may be even better against Korea," added Oltmans, who is also the High Performance Director of Hockey India.

Barring the goalkeepers -- Sreejesh and P T Rao -- who had a session with goalkeeping coach Dave Staniforth, the Indians have an off day today as the team management has given the players time to recover ahead of the all-important Korea clash.

The Times of India



Indo-Pak series will revive hockey in both countries: Rasool

IPOH: He was witness to the golden era of hockey in India and Pakistan, but Olympian Akhtar Rasool is heartbroken to see the current sorry state of the game in the two countries and feels frequent bilateral series between the neighbours can help bring back the past glory.

Rasool, the head coach and manager of the Pakistan team, has called on the national federations of both India and Pakistan to work together in organising bilateral series at neutral venues if not in the two countries.

"India and Pakistan have taught hockey to the world but they are now struggling to regain their past glory. I feel we should play more against each other. We are not playing with each other. That's why European teams are beating us," said Rasool.

"If we play more with each other, I think we can slowly and steadily rise up the ladder and dominate world hockey again," he said.

"If we can't play in our respective countries we can play a bilateral series at a neutral venue just like cricket. We just need to have the courage," said the former centre\-half, who was a member of Pakistan's gold medal-winning team in 1978 and 1982 World Cups.

India and Pakistan were scheduled to play a home-and-away bilateral hockey series this year but it was called off after the Indian government refused permission on security grounds.

Pakistan's hockey team was scheduled to tour India in April this year for five Test matches, which would have revived the bilateral hockey ties between the two traditional rivals in nearly seven years.

Pakistan were expected to play matches in the cities of Ranchi, Lucknow, Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar between April 5-15. After that, the Indian team was scheduled to pay a return visit and play five matches in Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi and Sialkot from April 23.

Rasool, on his part, has invited the Indian hockey team to visit Pakistan.

"We always welcome India. From my part I assure the Indian people and the government that we will provide full security to the team in Pakistan," he said.

Rasool also said the basics of hockey have changed drastically over the years with power-play coming to the fore.

"Now hockey has become power game, hockey has totally changed. The Europeans are now dominating hockey but when you consider the art aspect associated with the game, India and Pakistan will always be superior," Rasool observed.

In a must-win situation in the Asia Cup, eight-time Olympic champions India and neighbours Pakistan, are facing the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971, but Rasool said the quadrennial event needs both the countries' participation.

"I hope that India and Pakistan face each other in the Asia Cup final. It would be the best thing to happen for Asian hockey.

"But world hockey needs India and Pakistan. If FIH wants to build the World Cup and popularise it, India and Pakistan must be there," he said.

The Times of India



Pakistan thrash Japan 7-0


Pakistan triumphed in their Asia Cup opener as they defeated Japan 7-0 to set a winning tone in the competition with hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Pakistan opened their campaign at the Asia Cup with a resounding victory as they thrashed Japan 7-0 at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, Malaysia yesterday.

The team is looking to clinch the crucial Asia Cup trophy in order to qualify for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World Cup in Hague next year.

Pakistan missed an opportunity last month to book their place in the World Cup line-up, finishing the World Hockey League in seventh place among eight teams in the knock-out round of the competition.

However, in the opening Group A match yesterday, players Muhammad Waqas, Mohammad Tauseeq and captain Muhammad Imran trounced their opponents, scoring two goals each. Abdul Haseem Khan got a solitary strike for the greenshirts.

In another match of the day, Malaysia defeated Chinese Taipei 10-2 and India crushed Oman 8-0 in their Group B opener.

Pakistan will now take on hosts Malaysia today, while Japan will face Chinese Taipei. Defending champions South Korea and Bangladesh will open their Group B campaigns today.

Equal opportunity for Pakistan, Malaysia and India

While South Korea have already booked their place in the World Cup after Argentina failed to qualify from the Pan American Cup, the Asia Cup will pose tough competition for Pakistan, India and Malaysia.

Although the score against Japan in the opening match has set the team’s tone in the competition, former national player Islahuddin Siddiqui said that the result was not at all impressive.

Siddiqui was also the team manger and head coach in 1989 when Pakistan won their last Asia Cup, defeating India 3-1 in New Delhi.

“Pakistan is a better team than Japan in every way, they should’ve scored 10 to 12 goals in this match,” Siddiqui told The Express Tribune. “Winning against Japan or Chinese Taipei is not impressive.”

Siddique predicted that the level of competition from Pakistan, India and Malaysia would be the same and all three squads had an equal chance of winning the cup.

“I can predict that the last four teams will be Pakistan and Malaysia from Group A and India and Korea from Group B. Reaching the semi-finals shouldn’t be a problem for our team. And with the results from the opening match, I can say that even India is not playing too well. They should’ve also scored more goals against Oman.”

Siddiqui, however, said that the team had to maintain focus while adding that the senior players needed to prove themselves.

“It is high time we win the Asia Cup, it’s been 24 years now. I can still recall me being the coach and the manager for the team in 1989 and how the Indian fans attacked us after the final. Asia Cup has more importance now since it involves World Cup qualification.

“I wish Pakistan wins it this time and the senior players who have been called back can prove their worth,” said Siddiqui.

According to the FIH rankings, Korea are in sixth position, while Pakistan are ranked eighth in the world. India are placed 11th and Malaysia sit at 13th in the rankings.

The Express Tribune



Pakistan thrash Japan 7-0 in Asia Hockey Cup

Malaysia maul Chinese Taipei 10-2 | India crush minnows Oman 8-0


LAHORE - Pakistan started their must-win campaign to earn a spot for the 2014 World Cup with a thumping 7-0 victory over Japan while hosts Malaysia demolished debutant Chinese Taipei 10-2 in their respective pool A matches on the opening day of the ninth Asia Cup Hockey Tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia at on Saturday.

According to information made available here, in the first pool A encounter, Pakistan started on a bright note and raced to a 6-0 lead in the first half before the Japanese came up with a spirited effort in the second period to concede just one goal.

M Imran’s soldiers men, who must win the title to earn a berth at next year’s World Cup in the Netherlands, started in emphatic fashion through M Waqas’ double in the 11th and 20th minute of the match. Abdul Haseem Khan then got on the board in the 22nd before M Tousiq’s brace and another by Imran gave the green shirts a commanding 6-0 lead going into half-time.

But it was completely different scenario after the break as Pakistan found it extremely difficult to breach the Japanese defence, which seemed to have learnt from its mistakes. After toiling hard for the entire second half, Pakistan managed to score another goal at the stroke of the hooter through their skipper Imran who converted a penalty corner. Pakistan’s dominance can be gauged from the fact that they scored five of their goals from penalty corners while the other two came through field efforts.

Meanwhile, in the second Pool A match of the day which witnessed high-scoring encounters, Malaysia was in for a rude shock early in the game when Chinese Taipei took the lead against the run of the mill through Liu Ching Kun (5th minute).

Stunned by the early goal, the Malaysians regrouped themselves quickly and did not give any more easy inroads to Chinese Taipei. The home team scored goals at will thereafter to rule out the possibility of an upset. Malaysia scored five goals in each through Faizal Sari (10th minute, 13th, 69th), Ashaari M Firhan (18th, 69th), Abdul Jalil Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (23rd), Mohd Jalil M Marhan (32nd), Ahmad Tajuddin Izwan Firdaus (39th), Mohd Noor Nabil Fiqri (45th) and Sari Mohd Fitri (62nd).

Earlier, in the first match of the day, India crushed minnows Oman 8-0. Young striker Mandeep Singh netted a hat-trick in his team’s 8-0 to win. The Indian team indulged in goal fest as they scored four apiece on either side of the break. For the winners, Mandeep (4th minute, 40th, 44th) struck thrice, while Ramandeep (17th), VR Raghunath (28th), Rupinderpal Singh (34th), Malak Singh (47th) and SK Uthappa (69th) sounded the board once. Chinese Taipei’s second goal came in the 46th minute from the stick of Tseng Hsien-Yi.

TODAY’S FIXTURES:
South Korea vs Bangladesh at 01:05pm
Japan vs Chinese-Taipei at 03:05pm
Pakistan vs Malaysia at 05:05pm

The Nation



Pakistan begin Asia Cup campaign with 7-0 hammering of Japan

Pakistan began their quest to earn that one elusive spot for the 2014 World Cup with a 7-0 hammering of Japan on the opening day of the 9th Asia Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, which got underway today.

Muhammad Imran’s men, who must win the title to earn a berth at next year’s World Cup in the Netherlands, started in rollicking fashion through a Muhammad Waqas double in the 11th and 20th minute of the match. Star forward Abdul Haseem Khan then got on the board in the 22nd before Muhammad Tousiq’s brace and another by Imran gave the Greenshirts a commanding 6-0 lead going into half-time.

Japan came out with a clear plan and much more intent in the second half and brilliantly kept the quick and skillful Pakistani forwards at bay and also made some offensive inroads.

However, they had a mountain to climb and the solid Pakistan side kept their shape to deny their opponents any goals. Skipper Imran sealed the thumping victory for Pakistan at the final buzzer from a penalty corner.

In the day's other mathces, India thumped minnows Oman 8-0 while hosts Malaysia beat Taiwan 10-2.

Dawn



Auckland men, Midlands women win titles


Photo: www.photosport.co.nz

Midlands won the women’s title for the first time, while the Auckland men secured a three-peat on finals day of the Ford National Hockey League at North Harbour Hockey Stadium today.

In the women’s final, Midlands routed Capital 5-0 to win the K-Cup for the first time ever under the current Ford NHL format.

Midlands dominated the first half, pouring on four goals thanks to a relentless midfield and clinical finishing in the attacking circle.

Renee Ashton opened the scoring with a powerful shot from the top of the circle following a cutting run from Black Stick Gemma Flynn.

Midlands found themselves up 2-0 just moments later with yet another brilliant solo effort from Flynn, this time scoring herself. Shiloh Gloyn capped a superb first half for the girls in orange, scoring a double to put Midlands in complete control.

Capital played better hockey in the second half but couldn’t get onto the scoreboard, while Flynn put the icing on the cake with her second goal of the day to seal the 5-0 result.

In the men’s final, Auckland took a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Southern to take home the Challenge Shield in a replay of last year’s final.

It was an incredibly close first half, with both sides creating opportunities but also playing strongly on defence. Just one goal separated the sides with Sam Miskimmin giving Auckland the advantage.

Jeremy Morris responded midway through the second half with a deft touch onto the end of a hard cross into the circle, locking the game up at 1-1.

Dwayne Rowsell put Auckland back out in front with a well worked penalty corner flick but Southern responded immediately with a goal of their own, Jason Dungey levelling the score and sending the game to fulltime at 2-2.

With both periods of extra time proving fruitless for both teams, Auckland stamped their authority to win the penalty shoot-out 4-3 to win their third straight Ford NHL title.

Earlier in the day, a Samantha Harrison double helped the Auckland women defeat Canterbury 4-0 to win the bronze medal.

The Canterbury Cavaliers won the men’s bronze medal with a tight 3-2 victory, despite a strong second half comeback from Midlands.

2013 FORD NHL PLAYER AWARDS

Men’s MVP: Hugo Inglis (Southern)
Men’s Top Goal Scorer: Hugo Inglis (Southern, 14 goals)

Women’s MVP: Samantha Charlton (Midlands)
Women’s Top Scorer: Renee Ashton (Midlands, 10 goals)

CLICK HERE for full results, placings and goal scorers

FORD NHL RESULTS
SUNDAY 25 AUGUST

MEN

FINAL
AUCKLAND FURY 2: (Sam Miskimmin, Dwayne Rowsell)
SOUTHERN DOGS 2: (Jeremy Morris, Jason Dungey)
Auckland won penalty shoot-out 4-3

3rd/4th PLAYOFF
CANTERBURY CAVALIERS 3: (William Davidson, Mirco Pruyser, Cameron Hayde)
BAYLEYS MIDLANDS 2: (Zac Woods, Andy Hayward)

5th/6th PLAYOFF
TRUST HOUSE CAPITAL 5: (Matt L’Huillier 2, Gabriel Kepes, Tim Gyles, Dane Lett)
NORTH HARBOUR 2: (Jan Peterson, Dave Kosoof)

7th/8th PLAYOFF
CENTRAL MAVERICKS 3: (Marcus Emery, Shea McAleese, Martin Atkinson)
MARK CROMIE HOLDEN NORTHLAND 2: (Steve Nink, Jeremy Child)
Fulltime 2-2, Central won in extra time

WOMEN

FINAL
BAYLEYS MIDLANDS 5: (Renee Ashton, Gemma Flynn 2, Shiloh Gloyn 2)
TRUST HOUSE CAPITAL 0

3rd/4th PLAYOFF
AUCKLAND FURY 4: (Sam Harrison 2, Monique Wilson, Krystal Forgesson)
CANTERBURY CATS 0

5th/6th PLAYOFF
NORTH HARBOUR 3: (Erin Goad 2, Tara Hall)
CENTRAL MYSTICKS 0

7th/8th PLAYOFF
MARK CROMIE NORTHLAND 4: (Alyse Morgan, Naomi Evans, Jodie Nichol, Jessica MacAlister)
SOUTHERN STORM 0

Hockey New Zealand Media release



Auckland, Midlands take NHL titles

Auckland's men made it a hat-trick of National Hockey League titles after beating Southern in a shootout today, while Midlands won the women's championship for the first time.

In a replay of last year's final, Auckland again proved too strong for the Southern side, who twice came from behind to force the game into extra time only to be undone in the climactic shootout at North Harbour Hockey Stadium.

After Auckland's Ryan Archibald made no mistake from the opening one-on-one opportunity, Black Sticks teammate Hugo Inglis put his shot wide to leave Southern playing catch-up. They failed to complete yet another comeback, losing 4-3 and leaving Inglis, the tournament's top scorer, looking dejected as he collected the tournament's most valuable player award.

There was no such drama in the women's section, with Midlands routing Capital 5-0 to win the K-Cup for the first time ever under the current NHL format. Black Stick Gemma Flynn and Shiloh Gloyn both notched doubles to easily take care of a Capital side who knocked out favourites Auckland.

The Auckland women eventually finished third, leaving the men to grab some glory for the province. They qualified for the semifinals as top seeds after six wins and one defeat in round robin play, before reaffirming their favouritism with a fast start in the final.

Auckland began with a high pressing approach which suffocated Southern and, while their circle defence initially coped, it seemed only a matter of time until Auckland found a hole.

Sure enough, that arrived on the 10-minute mark when Sam Miskimmin found a small pocket of space and fired past Hamish McGregor on his stick side.

After weathering the storm and sustaining minimal damage, Southern came into the contest as the first half progressed, yet Devon Manchester remained relatively unoccupied in the Auckland goal.

It was hard to recall the young keeper having a save to make but, shortly after halftime, he was beaten by a deft touch from Jeremy Morris after Eddie Ockenden fired a cross to the far post.

With the scores level, the match became relatively bereft of goalmouth action until Auckland won the game's first penalty corner with 10 minutes to play.

Dwayne Rowsell put his side back out in front with a well worked flick, but Southern responded immediately through Jason Dungey to send the game to golden goal extra time.

With the stakes high and the teams playing with reduced numbers, extra time was played with an onus on avoiding defeat rather than chasing victory. It was an approach which saw both periods finish scoreless and left the Challenge Shield to be decided by the dreaded shootout.

In the women's final, Midlands dominated the first half, pouring in four goals thanks to a relentless midfield and clinical finishing in the attacking circle.

Renee Ashton opened the scoring with a powerful shot from the top of the circle following a cutting run from Flynn, and Midlands found themselves up 2-0 moments later with another brilliant solo effort from Flynn, who this time scored herself.

Gloyn capped a superb first half for the the team from Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau and Waikato, scoring a double to put Midlands in complete control, before Flynn put the icing on the cake with her second goal of the day.

The New Zealand Herald



Pholo provides the fizz as Southerns retain SA hockey title

JONATHAN COOK in Port Elizabeth


Athens 2004 Olympian Tsoanelo Pholo netted a stunning opening goal and then engineered the winner as Southern Gauteng retained the SA Women’s Interprovincial Hockey Tournament title with a 2-1 win in the final over last year’s silver medallists Western Province at the KC March Astro in Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth Saturday night.

It was a triumph for coach Garreth Ewing’s Johannesburg girls who ended with a 100% win record in the tournament, while for the Southerns veterans - captain Pietie Coetzee and the irrepressible Pholo - it was yet another sweet triumph.

Southerns dominated much of the game and opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Roxy Turner fired in a cross from the right, which Pholo deflected high into the net.

WP equalised in the 18th minute when Leigh Boardman’s well-struck penalty corner deflected off flying first wave Sammy Prost’s stick and looped just under the crossbar.

Turning around with the score locked at 1-1 it was Pholo once again who provided the spark when she nailed a reverse-stick cross from the left-hand corner into the danger zone in the 64th minute and competent centre back Annelien Davin, in trying to intercept the dangerous ball, deflected it over the WP goalline for an own goal.

Coach Andi Bernstein, captain Jade Mayne and the Western Province team can drew consolation from the fact that they had an excellent tournament.

At the closing ceremony Brett Barlow, the Eastern Province Hockey Federation president, made special mention of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality for the contribution they made to the tournament’s success.

In the entertaining bronze medal match, Northern Blues won 4-2 to retain their third-place ranking in SA women’s hockey.

Northerns led for three-quarters of the match and North West were always chasing the game. Coach Gregg Hesom’s Pretoria girls scored goals through Kate Koenig and captain Nicolene Terblanche before a brace from Lenthea Kamffer finally restored parity for coach Elun Hack’s Potchefstroom lasses after 45 minutes.

However, Northerns pulled away again via the sticks of Marlene Nortje and vice-captain Kim Hubach in the 61st and 66th minutes respectively for the 4-2 final scoreline.

One of the day’s highlights was the tussle for fifth place between Eastern Cape rivals Border and Eastern Province.

Wednesday’s Pool A match went the way of Border 4-0, the biggest EP defeat in the long history of this rivalry, but it was EP who displayed the tenacity to come back in a typically hard-fought derby in which they had trailed since Danielle Judge’s 14th-minute goal.

The lively Toni Marks equalised with a well-struck penalty corner 10 minutes from the final whistle and the ensuing best-of-five penalty shootout saw keeper Michelle Cremer in fine form for EP to eventually prevail 2-1 in a heart-stopping atmosphere.

KZN Coastal Raiders won their first match in five starts with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Free State to end in seventh place. The result turned around the Free State side’s 1-0 win in the Pool A encounter on Wednesday.

The Raiders led for most of the game while the Free Staters were never in front, but played catch-up with admirable tenacity until Kara Stella nailed the winner 10 minutes from the end.

It was a disappointing end for the young Free State side, who started with a bang on day one, leading SA hockey heavyweights WP 2-0 at half-time before a lack of self-belief contributed to a 3-2 defeat.

In the B Section final between two sides with four wins from four starts, KZN Inland began beautifully with a seventh-minute goal by Caitlyn Seegers to open the scoring, but the Pietermaritzburg girls were unable to capitalise on this great start by scoring more goals.

Witwatersrand clawed their way back into the game and Georgia Carpenter netted the equaliser five minutes after half-time. Wits finished strongly but the encounter was forced into golden goal extra-time.

However, the deadlock could still not be broken and the match went into a penalty shootout, where Wits prevailed 2-0, showing greater composure and technical ability when it mattered.

EP Settlers ended third, a much-improved Mpumalanga fourth, KZN Mynahs fifth, SA Country Districts B sixth, SA Country Districts A seventh and Southern Cape eighth.

FINAL RESULTS AND CLASSIFICATION

A Section (final): Southern Gauteng 2 Western Province 1; (3/4) Northern Blues 4 North West 2; (5/6) Eastern Province 1 Border 1 (EP won penalty shootout 2-1); (7/8) KZN Coastal Raiders 4 Free State 3.

B Section (final): Witwatersrand 1 KZN Inland 1 (Wits won penalty shootout 2-0); (3/4) EP Settlers 2 Mpumalanga 1; (5/6) KZN Mynahs 4 SA Country Districts B 2; (7/8) SA Country Districts A 4 Southern Cape 1.

SA Hockey Association media release



Dengue Fever puts damper on home side Tuffy Western Province's IPT title quest

JONATHAN COOK



SA captain and Tuffy Western Province midfielder Austin Smith out of IPT. Photo: MARIO VAN DE WALL

The BDO Senior Men's Interprovincial Tournament (IPT) kicks off at Hartleyvale International Hockey Stadium in Observatory, Cape Town Sunday and the home team, Tuffy Western Province, are without their talismanic midfielder and national captain, Austin Smith.

Province, who finished a disappointing fourth last year, will be desperate to reclaim the national title that at one stage appeared to be their private property, and the challenge has been made harder by Smith’s enforced absence due to the Dengue Fever that he contracted during the World League Semi-Finals event in Malaysia just under two months ago.

“Austin is out, unfortunately,” the SA Hockey Association executive’s athletes’ representative, Jack Thonissen, said Saturday. “Dengue Fever apparently lingers in your system for quite some time and Austin is slowly coming back to hockey but is not allowed to go at 100% effort. He is at risk of causing himself damage, so between his Dutch club’s doctors and the SA team doctors it’s been decided that it’s best for him to rest, as he needs to be ready for the Africa Cup in Kenya at the end of next month as well as the league in The Netherlands.”

Fellow SA midfielder and Northern Blues kingpin Jonty Robinson also contracted Dengue Fever in Malaysia and will miss IPT.

The duos’ absence will strengthen defending champs Southern Gauteng’s chances of retaining their crown, won in Bloemfontein last year, but on paper the race for the gold medal next Saturday looks wide open, with Southerns, WP and the Blues also having to contend with multiple title winners KZN Coastal Raiders, the Junior World Cup-bound South Africa Under-21 team and dark horses Eastern Province and KZN Inland.

Last year’s top four in this 12-team competition were winners Southerns, finalists SA U21, bronze medallists the Blues and fourth-placed WP.

Southerns, WP, Inland and EP are all in Pool A along with Free State and North West, while SA U21, Blues and Raiders are in Pool B alongside Witwatersrand, KZN Mynahs and WP Peninsula. The teams will be tussling for the top two positions in Pools A and B, which ensures the right to a berth in Friday’s semi-finals and then hopefully a spot in the final, which is at 4 pm next Saturday.

The five-team B Section, or “second division”, starts Monday, which will be played in a round-robin format with the top two teams contesting the final, will see SA Country Districts defending their title against EP Settlers, Border, WP Disas and Namibia.

Sunday’s most eye-catching matches feature Southerns against EP at 3 pm and WP versus the Blues at 5 pm on the stadium pitch.

SUNDAY’S FIXTURES

Stadium pitch


A Section: KZN Inland vs Free State (1 pm); Southern Gauteng vs Eastern Province (3 pm); Tuffy Western Province vs Northern Blues (5 pm).

B pitch

A Section: KZN Coastal Raiders vs KZN Mynahs (12 pm); South Africa U21 vs Witwatersrand (2 pm); Northern Blues vs WP Peninsula (4 pm).

SA Hockey Association media release



Quartet boost to hockey

Talents from state nursery shine on global stage

PRATYUSH PATRA



(Left to right) Deep Grace Ekka, Lilima Minz, Anupa Barla and Namita Toppo at Rourkela railway station after their return from Germany Picture by Uttam Kumar Pal

Bhubaneswar - Hockey talents from the state are blossoming on the national and international stage and much of this is because of better infrastructure and change in mindset.

Four Odisha girls were in the Indian squad that created history in Germany earlier this month by winning the bronze medal in the junior women’s hockey world cup. They defeated England 3-2 in the penalty shootout.

The four girls — Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz, Anupa Barla and Deep Grace Ekka — come from tribal families in Sundargarh district. While Ekka trains at Sports Authority of India sports complex in the district, the other three train at Panposh Hockey Hostel. All the four play for the state and the national team.

Ever since their victory, accolades and cash rewards have been flowing in for the girls. They received a grand welcome at Rourkela railway station where their coaches, local politicians and hockey followers came to greet them. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has declared a prize of Rs 1.25 lakh to each of them. The Union sports ministry and Hockey India have announced cash rewards, too.

Sundargarh has been known for producing great hockey players. While Olympians Dilip Tirkey, Michael Kindo, Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh and many others have donned the national jersey in men’s hockey, Jyoti Sunita Kullu and Subhadra Pradhan from the state have led the national women’s team.

“There is already a synthetic hockey turf in the stadium and another is nearing completion. We have six to eight hours of training everyday. There’s no doubt that the players are extremely talented and work hard on their fitness. Besides, the kind of support we get from the state government and the district administration is commendable,” said head coach at Panposh Stadium Amulya Nand Bihari. Bihari is one of the four coaches, who train 48 players — 24 men and 24 women — at the stadium.

“About five years ago, when I started playing, there were hardly any girl playing hockey. Since then, at least three girls from my village have started training at the stadium. Boys had always been encouraged to play hockey, and now, girls are getting a lot of encouragement, too. My mother was very supportive of my pursuits,” said Anupa Barla, 19, who believes that the training given in the state is on a par with any other Indian state.

Though Sundargarh has produced a lot of quality hockey players, experts believe that a large pool of talent remains untapped as the game has not grown uniformly in other districts. Even Cuttack and Bhubaneswar have not been very successful in producing quality players. So far, around 40 women hockey players from the state have represented the country in both junior and senior levels.

The state-of-the-art hockey stadium with a pink-and-blue synthetic surface that was inaugurated at Kalinga Stadium sports complex last month became the fifth synthetic turf for hockey in the state. The other four are in Sundargarh district.

Hockey Odisha secretary Pratap Satpathy believes that a lot needs to be done for female players in terms of incentives. Citing the example of Haryana, he said: “Haryana announced Rs 5 lakh award for each player, while Odisha is giving only Rs 1.25 lakh. Many players are willing to play for other states. Players must be bestowed with better rewards and high-paying jobs or they will go to other states,” said Satpathy.

Most players get jobs under sports quota in central government sectors or national corporates, and hence, discontinue representing the state. “The state government and private players should come forward to offer jobs to our female players, so that they can continue to bring laurels for the state,” he said.

Also, a Hockey Odisha official said the state sports department was not seeking their opinion about development of the game in the state.

However, the sports department sounded positive about the growth of women’s hockey in Odisha.

“An academy is coming up at Kalinga Stadium. It will be set up in association with Tata in a private-public-partnership mode. Also, it’s not just local players, who are training at Sundargarh. Instead of having turfs and hostels in all the districts, we have feeder centres and talent scouting teams to spot the bright young talents,” said D.V. Swamy, director of the sports and youth services department. He was quick to dismiss cold vibes between Hockey Odisha and the department stating that the association’s feedback was always welcome.

Far away from the debate, Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz, Anupa Barla and Deep Grace Ekka are training in Patiala with the Indian squad for the upcoming Asia Cup.

The Telegraph, India