News for 30 November 2013

All the news for Saturday 30 November 2013

Argentina HWL Final all set for action

Pool B Preview: Argentina, New Zealand, Australia & China aiming for glory

Will Luciana Aymar inspire Argentina to World League glory on home soil in Tucuman? (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

This Saturday, the thrilling finale of the inaugural women’s Hockey World League gets underway in the Argentine city of San Miguel de Tucuman.

The tournament features eight of the finest women’s international teams in the world and is the culmination of a journey which began back in August 2012 when the first rounds of the Hockey World League were played.

Thousands of fans are expected to attend the matches in Argentina, with a global audience of millions following the action on television or via the live streaming provided on the FIH You Tube channel. It promises to be an absolutely sensational event; the perfect way to bring the curtain down on a superb year of women’s international hockey.

In the second of two event previews, we take a look at the teams that will meet in Pool B, which features tournament hosts Argentina, Oceania rivals New Zealand and Australia as well as 2008 Olympic Silver medallists China. To read our preview for Pool A, click here!



Current FIH World Ranking: 1
How they qualified: Hosts / 3rd place - Investec Hockey World League Semi Final, London (ENG)
About the team: Alongside the Netherlands, “Las Leonas” have been the dominant force in women’s hockey for well over a decade. The team are the reigning world champions, having won the 2010 title in Rosario, the home city of star player and seven times World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar. Even at the age of 36, Aymar is still the driving force of the Argentina team and a player who is globally feared and respected in equal measure. The host nation – who are also the Silver medallists from the London 2012 Olympic Games – will take some beating on home soil, where the fans are sure to turn out in their thousands just to catch a glimpse of their sporting icons.

New Zealand
Current FIH World Ranking: 4
How they qualified: 4th place - Rabobank Hockey World League Semi Final, Rotterdam (NED)
About the team:  Under the guidance of coach and former Australia international Mark Hager, New Zealand’s Black Sticks have enjoyed arguably their most successful period in history. In 2011, the team claimed their first ever Champions Trophy medal when they took third place at the tournament in Amsterdam, and a year later narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal when they were beaten by Great Britain in the Bronze medal match.  Players to watch in their exciting squad include attacking midfielder Krystal Forgesson, quick-silver forward Anita Punt and team captain Kayla Sharland, a midfielder who was nominated for the FIH Player of the Year award in 2012.

Current FIH World Ranking: 5
How they qualified: 1st place - Investec Hockey World League Semi Final, London (ENG)
About the team:  It has been some time since the Hockeyroos were the dominant force in world hockey, but the momentum that the current group is gathering under coach Adam Commens suggests that they are firmly on track to be challenging for all the top honours over coming years. Australia’s young guns have hit some seriously impressive form in 2013, claiming first place finishes at the Hockey World League Semi Final (London) and Oceania Cup continental championship. The majority of the squad from the HWL success in London will make the trip to Tucumán, including star players Casey Eastham, Teneal Attard, Madonna Blyth and Anna Flanagan, the 2012 FIH Young Player of the Year.

Current FIH World Ranking: 7
How they qualified: 4th place - Investec Hockey World League Semi Final, London (ENG)
About the team: China come into the Hockey World League Final in the middle of a transitional phase, with a talented crop of young players who are beginning to establish themselves at the highest level. The team showed great form in the early stages of September’s Asia Cup continental championship in Kuala Lumpur, topping Pool A with three wins from three matches. However, they could not take their early form into the latter stages of the competition and finished fourth behind Japan (1st), Korea (2nd) and India (3rd). Three players have 100 caps to their respective names, with Wang Mengyu, De Jiaojiao and Xu Xiaoxu being by far and away the most experienced players in the squad.

To see the complete squad lists for all of the teams competing in the Argentina Hockey World League Final, please click here. To see the match schedule, click here.

Remember, the FIH will be live streaming every match on the FIH You Tube channel, ensuring that you do not miss a thing. There will also be regular updates on all of our social media channels, links to which you can find below. We hope you enjoy the action!

Live Streaming and highlights:

Twitter: . Hashtag: #hwl              


FIH site

Sickness weakens Kiwi squad in China

By David Leggat

Mark Hager, New Zealand hockey coach. Photo / APN

Stomach bugs and a formidable Dutch team have combined to give New Zealand coach Mark Hager plenty to ponder ahead of the start of the World League finals in Argentina.

New Zealand have had four players - Sam Charlton, Petrea Webster, Rhiannon Dennison and goalkeeper Amelia Gibson - struck by illness this week. It left them lethargic and provided a head scratcher for Hager and his staff as they prepare for the opening game against world No 7 China tomorrow morning in Tucuman.

"They haven't had a lot of energy in training and games but we hope it's not contagious and they're over it and ready to move on," Hager said.

And to compound matters, the third-ranked Black Sticks got a touch up from world No 1 the Netherlands yesterday, being on the wrong end of a 5-0 beating in a warmup game.

Still Hager said there was a good aspect to that contest.

"It was a bit of a lesson," he said.

"We probably should have scored a couple of goals but they really gave us a few areas to work on. They identified a lot of weaknesses we had, but we had seven players who'd never played them before so it was a bit of a wakeup call."

As Hager put it, "They're the best in the world and there's a reason why they are. They had four of their best players out but they've got talent to burn".

He has a decent idea of the challenge China will pose.

"They're quick, skilful, their basic skills are very good and they don't mistrap too often. We don't play them enough to know what to expect but they've got a good drag flicker as well so we don't want to concede too many penalty corners."

New Zealand's other pool games are against hosts Argentina, the world No 2, and sixth-ranked Australia.

The team is without experienced players Stacey Michelsen, Katie Glynn and Emily Naylor but it will be a good test of the depth within the squad.

The New Zealand Herald

Pakistan colts whip senior counterparts

KARACHI: The Pakistan junior team (Whites) overcame Pakistan seniors 2-1 in Lahore on Friday in the first of the two practice games organised as preparations for the Junior Hockey World Cup.   

Rizwan Ali scored the first goal for the winning squad in the 16th minute as he made no mistake on a penalty-stroke to give the squad a 1-0 lead at the interval.

Muhammad Tousiq doubled the lead in the 41st minute while Abdul Haseem Khan netted a solitary goal for the seniors in the 63rd to take the final score to 2-1.

The junior team’s head coach and manager Manzoorul Hassan was satisfied with his team’s overall performance in the game, which he said was played with spirit by both the sides.

“There are still areas where we can bring improvement though,” Hassan told The Express Tribune.

The Express Tribune

Pak junior beat senior in practice match

LAHORE - Pakistan junior hockey team scored a narrow 2-1 win over Pakistan seniors in a practice match to buildup of junior team's participation in the Junior Hockey World Cup.

In the practice match played here on Friday at Johar Hockey Stadium, juniors led the first half 1-0 and consolidated the lead in the following session to score a hard earned win.

From Pakistan juniors, Rizwan Ali scored the first goal in the 16th minute while M Tousiq added second in the 41st minute.

For the senior team, Abdul Haseem Khan scored only goal in the 63rd minute.

Former Pakistan captain Dr Tariq Aziz was the chief guest on the occasion. Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president Ch Akhtar Rasool, secretary Rana Mujahid and a number of ex-Olympians were present on the occasion

The Nation

Indian team has strong character: Gregg Clark

For Gregg Clark, pressure is a double-edged sword. With a bunch of tough youngsters at his disposal, the chief coach of the Indian team is confident of their ability to handle the pressure of expectation in the upcoming junior World Cup, starting at the National Stadium here on December 6.

Placed in Pool C, India will face a strong Holland outfit in its opening encounter and Clark hopes that his wards will give their best on home turf.

“It puts pressure on us. Here, it is an expectant public. You can allow the pressure to affect you negatively, or use it positively. We are India; we have rightfully high expectations and will rise to the occasion,” Clark told reporters here on Friday.

Speaking about the team’s ability to bounce back, Clark asserted, “The team’s character is very strong and I feel that will stand us in very good stead.”

The Indian team has entered the last leg of its preparations and Clark cannot wait for the event to unfold. “We are quite anxious for the tournament to start. We move into the tournament hotel on Monday. That will be the real start of the tournament for us.

“Right now, we are going through the motions of another training camp. We are looking forward to next week — a tournament like this in your home country.

“I am asking the players to focus, but the youngsters need to enjoy. Sometimes, you get only one opportunity to play such a tournament.”

India will play a few practice matches in the next few days, and Clark wants to make the most out of it. “The training matches are important to us, not necessarily the results. Obviously, we will want to keep the momentum going. In terms of performances, we are trying to introduce one or two specifics during our pool games. The games are really important for us to execute those tactics in a competitive environment.”

The South African said European teams should have the edge in the tournament. “There are a whole lot of teams we have not seen. The European sides will always be difficult. Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, which is the current European junior champion,” he said.

The Hindu

Playing at home does put pressure: Gregg Clark

Rohan Puri,

NEW DELHI: Indian junior men's hockey team coach Gregg Clark and captain Manpreet Singh feel European teams would be the ones to look out in the junior World Cup which is set to start from December 6 here in Delhi.

"European sides will always be strong and I expect tough competition from them. Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium will be tough to beat," Clarke said while interacting with the media at the Major Dhyanchand National stadium on Friday.

India have been placed in Pool C with Canada, South Korea and the Netherlands and face the Dutch in their opening game on December 6.

"We are prepared for our match against the Netherlands. That will be a good contest," said Manpreet. "We will focus on our strengths. It's good that we are facing a strong team in the first match. A win there will motivate us."

"If we do not get a positive result in that match (against the Dutch), we will still have two matches to make it to the quarterfinals," added Clark.

When asked if playing at home would put additional pressure on the team, Clark said, "Playing at home does put pressure on us. It's a very expectant hockey public. You can let it affect you in a positive or a negative way. We need to rise to the occasion. I'm confident that this team has the character to do that."

Clark said they are constantly working all aspects of the game. "We are training really hard to improve our penalty corners. Sandeep Singh has come from time to time to give training to the flickers. Our morale is quite high."

On why Affan Yousuf has been left in the reserves, he said, "Selection is a subjective thing. We think we have selected the best 18 players to the represent the country."

The Times of India

Working on our scoring: Jon Bleby

It may lack experience but England’s hockey team is confident of putting its best foot forward at the upcoming junior World Cup here.

Coach Jon Bleby was both realistic and optimistic of his team’s chances in the competition. Having landed almost 10 days in advance to get used to the conditions, the team had its first hard training session on Friday at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium, the venue for the competition.

“We have had a good build-up to the junior World Cup. We have played against some very good teams including five-time winners Germany and Holland. We know both these teams are very, very tough. The Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia was actually very good for the boys in terms of getting prepared for the conditions in India.

“None of them had travelled before to hot conditions so it was great,” Bleby said after the training session.

He counted the two besides India as the favourites to win the tournament. “India is a great team and we have a great respect for it.

“We played it in Malaysia and lost 3-1 while India went on to win the event. We actually played quite well in that game but still lost so we know India’s standards,” he said.

Asked about the areas of concern for the team, Bleby said the team had concentrated on goal scoring and penalty corners.

“In Malaysia we got around 10 short corners against India but couldn’t score off any, so scoring is an area we have been working really hard on.

“We have set some goals for ourselves from the tournament but not specific targets in terms of results. We are looking at performing as consistently as possible and if we make the quarterfinals, then anything is possible,” he added.

England will play a practice match against India on Saturday. The junior World Cup starts on December 6 with all 16 teams in action.

The Hindu

India are favourites to lift the World Cup: England coach

NEW DELHI: England's head coach Jon Bleby today said hosts India are one of the favourites to lift the Junior Hockey World Cup starting from December 6 here.

"India are one of the favourites to win the world cup. We have got a huge amount of respect for them. It would be a great challenge for our team to beat them. If you manage to beat strong teams like Germany, Holland and India, you have a great chance in the tournament," said Bleby.

England will play India in a practice match at the National stadium here tomorrow and Bleby said it would be an "interesting and close" game.

"India are obviously a great team. We played against them in Sultan of Johor Cup in our first game. We lost that game 1-3. India went on to win that tournament of course. India are a very good side. We are looking ahead to the game tomorrow. It will be an interesting and close game," he said.

Bleby said they are working on improving their penalty-shot conversion rate.

"We are working on improving our goal scoring and penalty corners. The expectation is high from the tournament. We have set a few goals for ourselves. We look to play to our potential. If we manage to reach the quarterfinals, that would be a great outcome for this group. We are looking to go as far as possible. We are kind of throwing everything out there."

The coach seemed to be in awe of the facilities provided by the Hockey India.

"We are really impressed with the facilities so far. We are bowled over by the stadium. It's one of the best stadiums I have ever seen. It's brilliant."

The Times of India

Negre wants India to win Jr World Cup , but says it won't be easy

NEW DELHI: The International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre expects India to be a force to reckon with in the upcoming Hero Junior World Cup but said it won't be easy for the hosts to win the tournament to be held from December 6-15.

Negre said the event is the perfect platform for talented young hockey players to make a name for themselves.

"Of course, if India were to win the tournament the impact would be huge, but with so many great hockey nations competing it is really difficult to predict who will lift the trophy," Negre said of the tournament to be held at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium.

Speaking on the topic of India's promising young brigade making the transition from junior to senior level, he said: "India has always been strong at the junior level. However, it is not always easy to make the transition from junior to senior hockey.

"This is not something which is unique to India but applies to every hockey playing nation in the world. That said, the India men's team is very talented and looks to have a fine crop of young talent coming through the ranks. I think it's really important that India gets behind the team during the Junior World Cup as fan support can really make a big difference. The future looks bright for Indian hockey," he said in a statement.

The fact that the event is being hosted in India is an added bonus for Negre as he is extremely fond of the country.

"I am really looking forward to visiting the country again. I love everything about coming to India. I am always made to feel extremely welcome here. Hockey events in India are always very special, and the atmosphere when the home team are in action is something that has to be seen to be believed. It is a real privilege to experience it," he said.

The Times of India

Felda boys on a mission


FELDA boys Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin and Hafiz Zainol are two examples of true grit and determination, which is what Malaysia need to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Junior World Cup in New Delhi.

Izad, 21, grew up in a Felda settlement in Trolak, Perak, while Hafiz, 20, is from Jengka in Pahang.

Since the Project 2013 squad were formed five years ago, coach K. Dharmaraj has picked, trained and booted out some 200 players. And for the two Felda boys to remain standing in the final 18 for the World Cup, is a remarkable achievement in itself.

Both were truly delighted, when Felda came in with an RM500,000 sponsorship to help the team in New Delhi from Dec 6-15.

"Growing up in a Felda settlement, life can be tough sometimes but it made me much more determined to make my mark when I was given a chance to join juniors training a few years ago," said Izad.

"And with Felda coming in as a major sponsor to help us, my gut feeling is that we are going to have a wonderful World Cup," said Hafiz.

Izad's main inspiration was his elder brother Roslan, a goalkeeper with the national senior side for the last decade.

"I have eight other siblings, and I am the youngest. Roslan is 14 years older than me, and I have always admired his ability in hockey.

"He (Roslan) is one of the driving factors in me giving my best in every match I play," said the lanky defender.

Izad is also the first runner when defending penalty corners, and has many a time stopped the ball with his body without fear.

The most recent was when he performed well against India's penalty corner flickers during the Sultan of Johor Cup.

"I don't fear the flickers, and my main focus is to stop them from scoring. If I get hurt in the process, it is not a problem, as I hate letting down the team," said Izad.

As for Hafiz, a midfielder, he feels the top-six target set by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) is achievable.

"Our first match (against New Zealand) is the most important in my career as a hockey player. I believe, if we beat the Kiwis, the quarter-finals door will open wide for Malaysia," said Hafiz.

Malaysia are in Group D and the other opponents in their path to the quarter-finals are England and South Africa.

New Straits Times

Kavin is second Malaysian to feature in two Junior World Cups

by Aftar Singh

Defender G. Kavin Kartik had played in the Junior World Cup in Johor Baru in 2009 and will be featuring in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi from Dec 6.

KUALA LUMPUR: Defender G. Kavin Kartik is the second Malaysian player who will feature in two Junior World Cups.

The Tampin-born player had played in the Junior World Cup in Johor Baru in 2009 and will be featuring in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi from Dec 6.

Defender M. Devendran was the first Malaysian to have played in two Junior World Cups – in 1985 (Vancouver) and 1989 (Ipoh). Malaysia finished 10th in Vancouver and sixth in Ipoh.

The 21-year-old Kavin said it was a real honour for him to be the second Malaysian player to feature in two Junior World Cups.

“I will not only marshal the defence but also help to deliver goals from penalty corner set pieces. As the most experienced player in the team, the burden will be on me to give my best,” said Kavin, who was named man-of-the-match in the final of the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca last year.

Kavin started his hockey career with the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) when he was in Form One in 2005. BJSS were champions in 2008 and 2009 in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League.

Kavin said that their biggest challenge in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi will be to finish in the top six among the 16 teams that are divided into four groups.

Malaysia, who finished 12th among the 20 teams in the 2009 edition, are in Group D in New Delhi with New Zealand, England and South Africa.

Kavin, who is pursuing his pre-university studies in BJSS, said that their opening match against New Zealand, who finished fourth in the last Junior World Cup, would be the toughest.

“We should get the better of England and South Africa to reach the quarter-finals.

“We are likely to face either hosts India or Holland from Group C in the quarters,” said Kavin, who also hopes to win a place in the national senior team next year.

The other defenders in the national juniors team are Faiz Helmi Zali, Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin, Mohd Zulhairi Hashim and Mohd Nor Aqmal Abdul Ghaffar.

The Star of Malaysia

Men’s officials confirmed for Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014

World class officials will oversee the action in The Hague, Netherlands

Christian Blasch (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

The FIH is pleased to confirm the names of the officials who will oversee the men’s competition at next year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup tournament, which takes place in The Hague, Netherlands between 31st May and 15th June 2014.

The Hockey World Cup is held every four years and ranks alongside the Olympic Games the most coveted, cherished prize in the sport.

The summer showpiece will be overseen by some of the finest competition officials in the world, with New Zealander Jason McCracken being given the crucial Tournament Director role. He will be supported by vastly experienced TOs Wiert Doyer (NED), Bjorn Isberg (SWE) and Claudius De Sales (IND).

The umpires list is packed full of experience, with Christian Blasch (GER) and John Wright (RSA) being two of twelve umpires selected who also officiated at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The full list of officials can be found below.

The officials for the women’s tournament will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Tournament: Rabobank Hockey World Cup (Men)

Venue: The Hague (NED)                      

Participants: NED / BEL / AUS / GER / ARG / ENG / NZL / KOR / ESP / MAS / IND / RSA
Date: 31 May / 15 June 2014                 

FIH Representative: NEGRE, Leandro (FIH)      

FIH Event Co-ordinator: TBC (FIH)                               


DOYER, Wiert (NED)
DE SALES, Claudius (IND)         

Medical Officer: ROLLE, Udo (Dr.) (GER)

Umpires Managers:
EHLERS, Henrik (DEN)

Media Officer: TBC (FIH)                      

AKPOKAVIE, Richard   (GHA)
KOSHIKO, Ryuichi (JPN)

BLASCH, Christian (GER)
JAMSON, Hamish (ENG)
KIM, Hong Lae (KOR)
MADDEN, Martin (SCO)
STAGNO, Nathan (GIB)
TAYLOR, Simon (NZL)          
VAZQUEZ, Paco (ESP)        
WIJSMULLER, Roderick (NED)         

FIH site

PAHF announces 2013 Pan American Elite Teams

Kwandwane Browne and Luciana Aymar nominated for record fourth time!

The Pan American Hockey Federation is pleased to announce the 2013 Pan American Elite Teams.

Since 2007, Pan American Elite Teams have been named every two years to recognize the top players in the Pan American region. Hockey specialists present at the 2013 Pan American Cups in Brampton (men) and Mendoza (women) were consulted for the selection of this year’s Elite Teams.

The 2013 Men's Pan American Elite Team is led by Kwandwane BROWNE, captain of the Trinidad & Tobago team, selected a record fourth time to the PAHF Elite Team. Four players were nominated for the third time (Mexican Francisco AGUILAR, American Pat HARRIS, Canadian Scott TUPPER and Argentinian Lucas VILA).

Pan American Champions Argentina have the strongest representation with four players (Facundo CALLIONI, Gonzalo PEILLAT, Lucas REY and Lucas VILA) while Pan American Cup runner-up Canada is represented by Scott TUPPER and newcomers Matthew GUEST and Mark PEARSON. The achievements of Trinidad & Tobago, bronze medalists in Brampton, were rewarded with the nomination of three players (Kwandwane BROWNE, Mickell PIERRE and Akim TOUSSAINT).

Altogether, the 2013 Men’s Pan American Elite Team is made up of players from seven different countries: Argentina (4), Canada (3), Trinidad & Tobago (3), Brazil (2), USA (2), Chile (1) and Mexico (1).

The 2013 Women's Pan American Elite Team is led by Argentinean superstar Luciana AYMAR, who once again dazzled opponents and spectators in Mendoza and is nominated for the fourth time to the continental Elite Team. Pan American Champions Argentina dominated the voting, with four other players selected (Agustina ALBERTARIO, Rosario LUCHETTI, Carla REBECCHI and Macarena RODRÍGUEZ).

The USA, silver medalists in Mendoza, had three players selected (Rachel DAWSON, her third nomination to the Elite squad, Katie REINPRECHT and Kathleen SHARKEY), while Canada’s return to the podium was rewarded with the selection of three first-time nominees (Kate GILLIS,  Hannah HAUGHN and Danielle HENNIG).

Three South American players picked up their second Elite selection (Camila CARAM and Claudia SCHULER from Chile, Janine STANLEY from Uruguay).

Altogether seven countries are represented on the 2013 Women’s Pan American Elite Team: Argentina (5), USA (3), Canada (3), Chile (2), Mexico (1), Uruguay (1) and Guyana (1).


2013 Pan American Elite Teams
Kwandwane BROWNE TTO
Christian LINNEY USA

Pan American Hockey Federation media release

Ruling out of own goals is welcomed by hockey players


IT will no longer be possible to score an own goal in hockey from next season after a two year experimental period on the statute book.

However individual nations can either stick with the current legislation until the end of the current season or delete it as they so wish.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has deemed that the rule will no longer be obligatory as of February 1 next year.

With the Irish Hockey League taking place in March and the knock out stages in early April in Banbridge the authorities have a decision to make.

The FIH have also decreed that the rule will cease to exist in international hockey from January 31 next year, meaning both the Ireland men's and women's teams won't have to cope with it in the next round of World League tournaments.

And from September 1 it will no longer be possible to score an own goal at any level as the rule will be removed completely.

The majority of players appear to be in favour of the decision to scrap the rule which meant that the ball did not have to be struck by an attacker's stick from within the shooting circle.

Lisnagarvey captain and Ireland defender Jonny Bell will be happy to see the rule abolished from all hockey next autumn.

"Personally I will be glad to see the back of the own goal, partly because I have had the embarrassment of having scored two myself, one of which was a real cracker in a World League game against New Zealand in Rotterdam," he explained.

"As a defender you have enough to keep you occupied without having to watch out for deflections and I don't think it added anything whatsoever to the skill set required to play hockey.

"If anything it made the game less skilful and encouraged teams to crash free hits and balls into the circle in the hope that a defender would get in the way."

Former Annadale and current Great Britain player Iain Lewers is in agreement with Bell.

"It's good to see the rule abolished as it has been in the game too long and discourages the use of skill in creating goal scoring chances," he stated.

Pegasus captain Pamela Magill however says she would have been happy to see the rule continue.

"The FIH should stick with rule changes when they make them – the own goal makes defenders sharper and free hits from the edge of the circle more exciting." she said.

"It also means there is no margin for error with your first touch," she added.

Belfast Telegraph

3-tier national league is Balbir Sr's roadmap for success

NEW DELHI: Pained by the steady decline of Indian hockey over the years, the legendary Balbir Singh Sr has drawn up a roadmap, which includes an innovative three-tier league, to help the country regain lost glory.

The iconic centre forward, who won gold medals at the 1948 (London), 1952 (Helsinki) and 1956 (Melbourne) Olympics, said it was imperative for India to quickly put a revival plan in place to raise the standard of hockey which is "very bad and disappointing" at the moment.

Balbir reckons that factional tension, lack of trained coaches at the grassroot level and absence of systematic national league were three primary concerns for Indian hockey at the moment.

"I have prepared a scheme of a national hockey league. We should hold it once a year and finish it within a month," Balbir Sr said during an interaction with journalists on Friday.

Elaborating on his well-structured plan, he said it was a three-tier league like most of the top soccer leagues across various countries.

"Instead of conducting national championship, we can have a national league with atleast 30 teams dividing them into three divisions as per their merit. It will be like rankings 1-10 in the top division followed by 11-20 and then 21-30. There should be promotion and relegation. It's not like Punjab playing Mizoram but well-matched teams pitted against each other."

Balbir Sr also recommended that good cash incentive should be given according to the performance of the teams.

"Cash awards should be there at every stage because players want money and their parents also need financial assistance. Cash awards should be given according to their standings, their rankings in the national ranking system", he said.

Balbir was also unhappy with the "step-motherly treatment meted out to hockey players".

"We have given hockey step motherly treatment. Among other sports, No.1 is cricket and it is in the limelight. The players are highly paid and treated like actors."

The third and most important reason, according to him, is the absence of a proper national hockey league where the top players will be pitted against each other in competitive sphere.

Although he is in favour of a separate national league, Balbir is not averse to the idea of cash-rich Hockey India League (HIL).

"I have no problems with HIL as any type of league means competitive matches which is very important."

He is pained at the current plight of Indian hockey and the team finishing last in the London Olympics.

"Very bad (about standard). I didn't want to use this word but I feel dejected. I am sad. During London Olympics, they were honouring me for my contribution to Indian hockey. I was interviewed by the BBC in London about India's chances. I said that I want them to win gold but would be satisfied with top six finish. And we ended at the bottom without winning a single match. I was shocked."

"Balbirs come and Balbirs go but it's the country that stays forever. India comes first. Country is more important and not Balbirs," he explained.

The 89-year-old player, who has the distinction of being the flag bearer of the Indian contingent in two Olympic Games, also urged the corporate sector to back the game which has given India the maximum number of Olympians as well as gold medals at the quadrennial extravaganza.

"The corporate sector must also contribute. The central government can't always afford what corporate sectors can afford. I also want youngsters to study hard as academics can't be ignored at any cost. You need a job in order to earn your living. Their should also be scholarships introduced in schools to help the outstanding sportspersons."

"Play as much as you want but not at the cost of your qualification. I want a system to be introduced for sportsperson where they would only get benefits if they are able to pass their exams. We don't want to make professionals only but we also want to see them as good officers".

The Times of India