All the news for Monday 10 July 2017
Red Lions make big statement on Day 2 in Johannesburg
France claimed a valuable point against New Zealand on Sunday. Copyright: FIH / Getty Images
Johannesburg, South Africa: Olympic silver medallists Belgium made a statement of intent with a big victory on the opening day of the men’s competition at the Hockey World League Semi-Final, where Spain and Ireland were also winners at the University of the Witwatersrand.
The first match of the day saw New Zealand (FIH Hockey World Ranking: 8) being held by Hockey World League Round 2 qualifiers France (WR: 17) in a fast paced Pool A encounter full of field goals. Stephen Jenness gave the Black Sticks the lead inside three minutes, but a fine diving finish from Etienne Tynevez restored parity two minutes later. A goal from François Goyet put France ahead before a Hugo Inglis double either side of half time put New Zealand back in the driving seat at 3-2. However, Pieter van Straaten’s goal just before the third quarter break completed the match scoring at 3-3.
“They [France] came out firing and were very dangerous out there today”, said New Zealand’s Kane Russell, who reached the milestone of 100 international appearances, after the match. “It was pretty average from our point of view, though. It is a very proud moment for me to reach 100 games, but I hope that we can bounce back and get the results that we need in this tournament.”
Spain (WR: 10) took full advantage of the draw in the day’s opening match, earning a 2-1 victory over Japan (WR: 16) to become early frontrunners on Pool A. Japan’s Samurais were arguably the better team in the first two periods, being denied by some excellent saves from Red Sticks goalkeeper Quico Cortes as well as hitting the frame of the Spanish goal. Spain found themselves trailing 1-0 shortly after half time thanks to a glorious penalty corner drag-flick from Shota Yamada. Josep Romeu levelled the scores in the 39th minute before Alvaro Iglesias slapped home what proved to be the winning goal 11 minutes from full time. It was a memorable day for two players, with Spain attacker Pau Quemada playing his 200th international match and Japan striker Kenta Tanaka making his 100th appearance for his country.
Belgium (WR: 5) were in sensational form in their opening match of the competition, with nine different scorers contributing to a 10-0 victory over Egypt (WR: 19). Red Lions goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch was forced into making a fine glove save inside the opening 60 seconds, but after that it was all one-way traffic. Goals from team captain Thomas Briels, Tom Boon, Amaury Keusters and Emmanuel Stockbroekx killed the game inside the opening quarter, with Nicolas De Kerpel and Loick Luypaert making it 6-0 at half time. Cedric Charlier and Sebastien Dockier made it eight goals from eight scorers before Boon and Briels made it a perfect ten with their second goals of the match.
A large and passionate crowd created a superb atmosphere in the final match of the day, although they left the stadium disappointed as Ireland (WR: 9) - a team coached by former South African international Craig Fulton - claimed a 2-0 triumph over host nation South Africa (WR: 15). Matthew Nelson scored from close range after ten minutes to give the Green Machine a lead that, despite a massive effort from the home favourites, they would never relinquish. South Africa came close on numerous occasions but found FIH Hockey Stars Goalkeeper of the Year David Harte in inspired form before Shane O’Donoghue sealed the victory with a 47th minute penalty corner drag-flick.
“One-nil is always a very dangerous score-line so it was important to get that second goal”, said Ireland’s Shane O’Donoghue. “The atmosphere was great today and we are really pleased with the win. Now we’ll focus on our next match against Belgium.”
Attention switches back to the women’s competition on Monday (10th July). At 1200 South African Standard Time (UTC +2), Argentina get their Pool B campaign up and running when they face South American rivals Chile before Germany and Ireland meet in Pool B at 1400. England face Pool A opponents Poland at 1600 before USA and India take to the field for their Pool B encounter at 1800.
Black Sticks locked in stalemate with France
Photo: Planet Hockey
The Vantage Black Sticks Men have been held to a 3-3 draw with France in their opening clash at the Hockey World League Semi Final in Johannesburg.
New Zealand shook off a slow start to put together some flowing hockey against the physical French, but struggled to convert more of their chances into goals.
Striker Hugo Inglis scored a double while Stephen Jenness added his side’s third in a result which sees the Black Sticks come away with one point.
Southern defender Kane Russell brought up his 100th test cap in the drawn game.
Head coach Darren Smith said it was a tough opening game at the tournament.
“We knew France were going to be a tough opponent and we expected them to come out firing, which they did,” he said.
“We couldn’t get our corners going today and we weren’t as smooth as we need to be on both sides of the ball.
“I think we were a bit tentative throughout the match so we have plenty to work on leading into our next game against Japan.”
New Zealand opened the scoring in just the third minute with Jenness slipping a deflection past the goalkeeper from a Sam Lane pass.
But France responded two minutes later when Etienne Tynevez snuck behind the Kiwi defence to beat the outstretched leg of Devon Manchester in goal.
France stunned the Black Sticks early in the second quarter with another field goal against the run of play to take a 2-1 lead.
Hugo Inglis equalised shortly before halftime after making a cutting run into the circle and shooting into goal on his reverse stick.
Inglis picked up his double in the 32nd minute, putting a deft touch on a hard crash ball into the circle from Nick Ross.
France refused to let the Kiwis stay out in front and equalised the game once again late in the third quarter through Pieter van Straaten.
The Kiwis mounted huge pressure over the final five minutes but couldn’t find a way past the French defence to snatch a win.
The Vantage Black Sticks are back in action against Japan in their second match at 2:00am on Wednesday morning (NZT), with live coverage on SKY Sport.
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS 3: (Hugo Inglis 2, Stephen Jenness)
FRANCE 3: (Etienne Tynevez, Francois Goyet, Pieter van Straaten)
Hockey New Zealand Media release
Ireland keeps winning with victory over SA
The South African national men’s team lost its first match of the FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals on Sunday evening when Ireland beat the host 2-0.
Ireland has lost only one match in 2017 thus far and even though it was a close game all around, the visitors looked very sharp and in control most of the time.
The halftime score was 1-0 to Ireland after a goal by Matthew Nelson in the ninth minute. South Africa ended the second chukka with a flurry of opportunities. In the minutes leading up to halftime the home team got three penalty corners and came very close to scoring, but the Irish goalkeeper David Harte showed why he is known as one of the best keepers in the world.
Shane O’Donoghue scored the second goal for Ireland from a penalty corner. This was probably the big difference on the day: Ireland scored a goal from its three corners, while the South Africans could not convert any of their five penalty corners.
Captain Tim Drummond afterwards said that the team will keep on working to improve all aspects of the game. “It was a tough day, but we did create chances and we can take positives from the match. We pride ourselves on our penalty corners, we do have a really strong battery and we will work on it as always. Our defence is also crucial. It is important to build confidence and keep on improving.”
Drummond added: “We would like to thank the fans for coming out. It really does make a difference and we hope to see them again.”
South Africa conceded some 50 turnovers and Ireland 45. Circle penetrations were also very similar with 25 to 27. South Africa had 51% of the possession.
Ireland, coached by former South Africa national player and last year’s FIH coach of the year Craig Fulton, is ninth on the world rankings and South Africa 15th.
South Africa’s next match is on Thursday against Germany at 18:00. The men are in the same group as Ireland, Germany, Egypt and Belgium.
Saturday the South African women’s team drew 0-0 with India. South Africa is in the same group as Argentina, USA, India and Chile. The SA women’s next game is on Wednesday against Argentina at 18:00.
All matches in the Hockey World League Semi-Final are played at the Wits Hockey Astro in Johannesburg. Twenty of the world’s best men and women’s national teams will take part in these Hockey World Cup 2018 qualifiers from 8 - 23 July.
Tickets for the event can be purchased online at http://hockeyworldleague.nutickets.co.za/HWL
All matches are broadcasted live on SuperSport.
Be sure to follow the teams on Twitter at @SA_Hockey_Men and @sawomenshockey
SA Hockey Association media release
Green Machine Open World League With 2-0 Victory
The Green Machine got their World League campaign off to a winning start against hosts South Africa in front of packed crowd in Johannesburg.
Ireland played a patient game in the opening exchanges as they were controlled in their build up and content to wait for the gaps to appear in the South African defence. The Green Machine were somewhat gifted their opening goal in the 10th minute when a mistrap from Rhett Halkett saw the ball fall to Matthew Nelson who thumped it goalward. Ireland were relentless in punishing any error by South Africa and Neal Glassey nearly made it 2-0 as he found himself bearing down on goal but Rassie Pieterse did well to smother the shot. The hosts grew into the game towards the end of the half and Ignatius Malgraff used his pace to create some chances, but 3 PC’s went amiss before the half time whistle sounded.
South Africa seemed to grow in confidence from their increase in circle penetrations and drew some good saves from David Harte, with John Jackson showing all his experience to clear up any trouble. Penalty corner 4 and 5 came and went for the hosts, and while their chances kept coming they simply weren’t accurate enough in the circle. Shane O’Donoghue’s drag flick goal in the 47th minute appeared to completely take the wind from South Africa’s sails and any further real chances were few and far between. The statistics paint the fixture as inseparably close with South Africa holding 51% of possession and only 2 less circle entries than the Green Machine, but the men in green proved clinical in front of goal and that was enough to seal their opening victory.
The Green Machine are next in action on Tuesday (July 11th) against Belgium at 5pm (Irish time), with the fixture to be shown live on BT Sport.
Ireland women’s hockey team continue their World League campaign tomorrow (1pm Irish time) against Germany, shown live on BT Sport.
Ireland 2 (Nelson, O’Donoghue)
South Africa 0
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell (Captain), C Cargo, A Sothern, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J McKee, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey
Subs: J Carr, M Bell, M Nelson, N Glassey, C Harte, J Duncan, S Cole
South Africa: J Robinson, A Smith, T Drummond (Captain), J Hykes, O Mvimbi, M Guise-Brown, T Halkett, D Cassiem, J Eustice, T Pieterse, I Malgraff
Subs: R Rosenberg, D Sibbald, R Julius, T Kok, D Bell, N Ntuli, R Curtis
Irish Hockey Association media release
Winning habit continues for Irish men against hosts
Ireland's men began their Hockey World League Semi-Final with a 2-0 win over hosts South Africa in Johannesburg courtesy of goals from Matthew Nelson and Shane O'Donoghue
Ireland celebrate Matthew Nelson’s goal. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for FIH
In previewing the Hockey World League Semi-Final, members of the Irish men’s squad sought to downplay the run of fine results in 2017 but the adage “winning is a habit” showed its truth on day one against South Africa.
For spells, the Johannesburg hosts had control and chances to make this an uncomfortable day for Ireland. But, in the key moments in either circle, the Green Machine had the goods to grind out a win to get their campaign off on the right foot with Matthew Nelson and Shane O’Donoghue scoring the goals.
Nelson opened the scoring 10 minutes in. It o owed much to Stephen Cole’s turnover in midfield as well as Rhett Halkett’s howler as the experienced defender contrived to miscontrol Cole’s cross. It fell perfectly for Nelson two yards out to tap in.
His Lisnagarvey club mate Neal Glassey almost made it two from a sumptuous passing move but Rassie Pieterse smothered the chance.
John Jackson sent flying by Owen Mvimbi. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for FIH
The second and third quarters, however, were run for the most part by the hosts but a youthful forward line made numerous technical errors to spurn good moves. When they did gel and won corners, David Harte stood tall, keeping out three strikes before half-time.
There were hearts in mouths when Harte deflected one shot onto the post-man with umpire David Dowdall awarding a stroke before calling a video referral on himself. After a few quick replays, the stroke was downgraded to a corner that Harte booted away.
South Africa carried that momentum into the second half, winning two more corners. One was not stopped while the other drag from Matt Guise-Brown was charged down by Jeremy Duncan.
Ireland rode out that rocky patch with John Jackson, in particular, cleaning up some frantic moments in a packed Irish circle.
When they countered, though, Ireland had much more thrust to their attacks with Sean Murray enjoying a fine night alongside O’Donoghue in midfield.
Having defended five penalty corners, Ireland scored from their first – won by Alan Sothern who drew a shoulder barge from Jonty Robinson – with O’Donoghue powering home.
South Africa’s belief capitulated thereafter and Craig Fulton’s side closed out the win – their 12th in 13 games – with something to spare, looking the more likely to add more goals.
Shane O’Donoghue celebrates his goal. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for FIH
“We are happy with the three points although it was a tight game,” Fulton said afterwards. “South Africa had a few good chances but we finished strong in the fourth quarter which was pleasing.”
Tuesday’s date with Olympic silver medalists Belgium, however, looks a much sterner test after they thrashed Egypt 10-0 in the other group game.
The coach added that the side is relishing the challenge ahead and in good shape to push on.
“The camp is really positive; we have a great environment and everyone is in good form. The altitude is very manageable now that we have been here for seven days so we have fully acclimitised.”
Hockey World League Semi-Final
Ireland 2 (M Nelson, S O’Donoghue)
South Africa 0
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, C Cargo, A Sothern, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J McKee, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey
Subs: M Bell, M Nelson, N Glassey, C Harte, J Duncan, S Cole, J Carr
South Africa: R Pieterse, J Robinson, A Smith, T Drummond, J Hykes, O Mvimbi, M Guise-Brown, R Halkett, D Cassiem, J Eustice, I Malgraff
Subs: R Rozenburg, D Sibbald, R Julius, T Kok, D Bell, N Ntuli, R Curtis
Umpires: R van Eert (NED), D Dowdall (ENG)
SA hockey men lose out to Ireland
by Karien Jonckheere
A mass of missed chances for the South African men’s team in their opening match of the Hockey World League saw them going down 2-0 against Ireland in Johannesburg on Sunday.
The Irish defence was superb throughout the match, meaning that despite numerous opportunities, the home side simply couldn’t get the ball in the goal.
Ireland scored when a defensive error from Rhett Halkett right in front of goal led to an easy opportunity for Matthew Nelson to slot one in for the visitors with just under six minutes to go in the first quarter.
There was more pressure from the Irish at the start of the second quarter. A great save from SA keeper Rassie Pieterse, who got out quickly to close the angle, prevented another goal for Ireland.
The home side looked far more aggressive towards the end of the half though, and when Nqobile Ntuli was brought down in the circle by Ireland’s Stuart Loughrey, the South Africans were awarded their first penalty corner of the match.
Austin Smith’s shot was saved by Ireland keeper David Harte, who was in on the action a few times more in the dying minutes of the half, as the South Africans earned two more penalty corners. They just couldn’t convert these and, with the amount of pressure they had built, they would have felt hard-done-by to reach the halftime break still one goal down.
South Africa managed to maintain that pressure at the start of the third quarter. A goalmouth scramble ended with the Irish keeper sitting on the ball and preventing the goal.
There were two more penalty corners for SA towards the end of the third quarter but they just couldn’t beat the impressive Irish defence.
At the start of the final quarter Ireland were awarded a penalty corner and they made no mistake in finding the back of the net to double their lead, thanks to a strike from Shane O’Donoghue.
Ireland were straight back on the attack after scoring and Pieterse showed his experience in preventing another goal. He was back in business shortly after – keeping out another penalty corner.
With just under six minutes to go, Ireland earned yet another penalty corner but the resulting shot was deflected wide by Austin Smith.
“Our strikers created a number of penalty corners, which I was a bit disappointed with missing considering that in Austin (smith) and in Matt (Guise-Brown) we have two really world class drag flickers,” said SA coach Fabian Gregory after the match. “But I must give the Irish credit. I thought their first wave ran a really tight line. Their defence was outstanding.
“We forced their keeper, who I consider to be one of the best keepers in the world, to make a heck of a lot of saves and we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
“I thought we had a good period of possession. Unfortunately we didn’t score from that so we have to look at what we’re doing when we’re in possession so that we can score goals.”
Meanwhile, in other men’s matches played on Sunday, New Zealand and France played to a 3-3 draw. Japan took a 1-0 lead over Spain thanks to a first-half goal off a penalty corner from Shota Yamada. But the Spanish came back in the second half, with goals from Josep Romeu and Alvaro Iglesias, to win the match 2-1.
And in the third match of the day, Olympic silver medallists Belgium annihilated Egypt 10-0.
While international hockey action continues at the Wits Astro tomorrow, the South African men’s next match is against world No 3 Germany at 6pm on Thursday. The SA women will be in action against Argentina on Wednesday, 12 July at 6pm, with all games being shown live on SuperSport.
SA men suffer same scoring problem as women
John Jackson of Ireland tackles Owen Mvimbi of South Africa in the South Africa v Ireland match during the Hockey World League Semi-Finals 2017 Johannesburg at Wits Education Campus Astroturf on July 09, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
South Africa were pressing hard, earning a number of short-corners, when halftime came, but they were unable to break through a brilliant Irish defence.
South Africa’s men’s hockey team were bemoaning the same lack of efficiency in front of goal as their women’s team as they lost 2-0 to Ireland in their opening match at the Hockey World League semi-finals at the Wits Astro on Sunday evening.
The women’s team were held to a 0-0 draw by India on the first night of the tournament, despite having several chances to win the game, and the men’s team were unable to make anything of their dominance in terms of both possession and territory against Ireland.
South Africa pressured the Irish from the opening exchanges, with some promising attacks failing to bring reward as the forwards just did not connect as well as they should have up front. But Ireland looked dangerous on the break a couple of times and the third time they attacked the South African circle, after Tim Drummond had lost the ball in midfield, brought reward.
Rhett Halkett failed to stop a hit along the baseline and the ball deflected straight into the path of Matthew Nelson, at the penalty-spot, and he was easily able to ram the ball past goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.
South Africa were pressing hard, earning a number of short-corners, when halftime came, but they were unable to break through a brilliant Irish defence.
Coach Fabian Gregory said afterwards that the team were disappointed not to make more of their short-corner chances.
“The penalty corners were our achilles heel tonight, we were disappointed with those. But in Austin Smith and Matthew Guise-Brown we have two world-class flickers and we backed them, which is why we didn’t try many variations. But the Irish first wave ran a really tight line and their goalkeeper, David Harte, who I rank as the best in the world, made some helluva good saves,” Gregory said.
That Irish defiance continued in the third quarter and, two minutes into the final chukka, Ireland increased their lead to 2-0 and that was that.
Alan Sothern made a fine run into space and the umpire ruled that he had been barged over by Jonty Robinson, awarding Ireland a short-corner, Shane O’Donoghue scoring with a powerful, low flick that rocketed into the backboard.
South Africa just could not raise the pace of their game sufficiently to stress the Ireland defence and the team coached by former SA international Craig Fulton could be well-pleased with their start to a tournament in which they are definite dark horses.
Earlier, Belgium showed that they will be strong contenders for the title as they hammered Egypt 10-0, Tom Boon and captain Thomas Briels both scoring twice.
Spain came from 1-0 down to beat Japan 2-1 in a fast-paced game, Alvaro Iglesias getting the winner with a field goal in the 49th minute, while France showed that they will be no pushovers even though they are ranked 17th in the world, as they snatched a 3-3 draw with New Zealand via a 44th-minute equaliser by Pieter van Straaten.
Polish magic shows off new-look Green Machine
Conor Harte will get married just a couple of days after the tournament in South Africa. Pic: Adrian Boehm
For Conor Harte, Ireland’s glorious fifth goal against Poland in March provided the moment when there was a feeling that things were coming together nicely for the green machine.
A series of one-touch passes on halfway set Sean Murray clean through; he slid his stick under the ball on the move to chip the hapless Rafal Banaszak and while it was on its way over the line, Jonny McKee made extra sure.
While not overly important in the grand scheme of a 5-1 victory, the moment in the World League Round 2 quarter-final was a sign an overhauled team was gelling nicely.
Since the Olympics, several players had made themselves unavailable. Peter Caruth, Michael Robson and John Jermyn were injured and Chris Cargo added to that list with a broken finger during the tournament in Stormont.
It provided a glimpse of what the next generation could produce. For Harte, who reached his 200th cap in June, it was a reassuring moment after some stressful times, wondering if the side could reach the same levels that earned their place at Rio.
“That was one of my most stressful tournaments, personally, sleeping-wise because of the unknown element to it,” he said.
“We scored that unbelievable counter goal in our first meaningful knock-out game. We saw what the guys were made of and I thought ‘we are onto something here’ and no one was going to stop us.”
Ireland swept to the final and their place in Johannesburg for the World League Semi-Final where they will look to claim a first World Cup spot since 1990.
They did it with a number of players that Harte knew precious little about other than what he had read on The Hook in dispatches having played just one season in Ireland in the last seven years.
“The lads were probably ball-boying around the side of the pitch back then, they were so young. They have brought a real freshness, an eagerness and a raw bit of talent. I remember over the years seeing their names on the Hook.”
Indeed, it is probably the first seismic shift in the line-up of its ilk since 2009 with eight players making their major tournament debuts in March. For this week, just eight of the Olympic panel are around.
“That’s a big turnover. With [a settled squad], there can be a complacency and a comfort zone. These guys are all so well conditioned compared to us when we were their age. There’s a real willingness to learn and things seem to be slotting into place quicker and that comes from their attitude.”
Such changes are part of the passage of time and big life decisions are coming thick and fast for the experienced end of the team.
Indeed, Harte hopes the tournament can act as the perfect pre-wedding present. Following the games in South Africa, Harte will return to Ireland on July 25 just four days before his nuptials.
Conor, along with brother David, is a full-time player, lining out for the past few seasons with Racing Club de Bruxelles but is aware there will be a time to make a choice.
“Professionally, we are aware it is a privileged career. Longevity of the career is massive and we want to prolong it as long as we can to our best ability.
“If we are firing at 50%, we might as well hang up our sticks. I wouldn’t say that it is weighing on my mind but it definitely does enter the mind a lot more. [David and I] are both 29 now and you do think ahead to other possibilities, the future.
“I thought naively that those days would never come that guys would step aside because of work like Ronan [Gormley], Mitch [Darling] and Mikey Watt and all those countless other guys.
“The reassuring thing is the crop of young guys coming up, especially the guys getting contracts in Europe. When the likes of Mitch, ourselves and so on going away in our early 20s, it made a big difference.”
Back to the immediate task at hand, Ireland face hosts South Africa on Sunday evening in their first of four group games. Olympic silver medalists Belgium are next on Tuesday before an important tie against Egypt. That phase of the competition closes with a tie against Germany.
Sean Murray played a key role in Ireland’s fifth goal against Poland in March. Pic: Adrian Boehm
“You’ll always have eyes on the first game. You do want to grow into the tournament and perform well in the first game. We would like to take them down and set the tone but we will be as blind as they are with regard to video of how they are playing.”
Finish in the top four in the group and Ireland will advance to the quarter-finals and one big step closer to the 2018 World Cup. The top five qualify automatically for the main event so a quarter-final win earns the ticket straight away.
Lose and they go into the fifth to eighth place classification matches. While fifth definitely goes to the World Cup, it is more than likely sixth and seventh will do, too, once the continental championships are ironed out later this year.
Ireland are facing up the challenge in good form with just one loss in 16 outings in 2017, beating world number three side Germany in Hamburg in their final official warm-up tie a fortnight ago.
On Tuesday, they saw off New Zealand 2-1 in an uncapped challenge match. Like coach Craig Fulton, Harte does not want to read too much into the numbers but is upbeat about the chances.
“I didn’t know the stats but I would say none of us were thinking about that but the old cliché of winning being a habit is true and it’s great!”
Hockey India justifies withdrawal from FIH Pro League
NEW DELHI: Justifying their pullout from the International Hockey Federation's Pro League, Hockey India said the event does not offer direct qualification to the Olympics and would have been detrimental to the chances of its women's team.
The ambitious Pro League, set to kick-start in 2019, will only give the top-four teams in both men's and women's a chance to compete in the Olympic qualifiers, an HI official has claimed.
While the Indian men's team's chances are bright, the eves, currently placed 13th in the world ranking, would have found it tough to finish in the top four.
The HI official said instead of the Pro League, both the men's and women's teams have better chances of making the Olympic qualifiers through World League Round 1 and Round 2 which will continue to co-exist with the Pro League from 2019.
"Let us make it clear that the Pro League will not give direct berths to top four teams in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It will only give the top four teams a chance to play in the Olympic qualifies.
"Our women's team has no chance of qualifying in the top four, so we decided to pull out from the event," the top HI official said.
"We have a better chance through the World League Round 1 and 2 so why to go the other way. Every nation had a chance to withdraw before July 17 failing which the FIH has the authority to impose a 2 year sanction and penalty. So we decided to communicate our decision to them early," he said.
The Pro League is the newest competition in the FIH calendar and is due to be launched in January 2019. The top nine men's and women's international teams will play each other on a home-and-away basis every weekend for six months from January to June.
The top four teams at the end of the league will get a chance to play in the Olympic qualifiers for the Tokyo Games.
HI has also cited lack of clarity in the ranking system for the new league and alleged that the world body has an apparent bias towards European sides.
"We definitely were one of the strong supporters of the Pro League and vouched for it but it seems the FIH is only interested in giving importance to the European teams. Till date, the FIH is yet to declare the ranking points system as it has not been approved," he said.
Although the men were better-placed to qualify through the Pro League, Hockey India said it had to withdraw both the teams as neglecting the women's team was not in line with the national federation's policy.
Incidentally the FIH right now is being headed by an Indian, Narinder Batra, and the pullout can also be looked upon as a ploy by Hockey India to pressurise the world body to change its complex World Cup and Olympic qualification process.
The Times of India
India’s withdrawal opens door for Malaysia into Pro League hockey
by S. Ramaguru
KUALA LUMPUR: India have withdrawn from the proposed men’s FIH Pro League which is slated to start in 2019.
India were one of the nine teams that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) had named last month for the inaugural league for both men and women. India had earlier also pulled out of the women’s league.
The others in the men’s league, which is staged on a home-and- away format over six months, are Argentina, Australia, Germany, Holland, Belgium, England, Pakistan and Britain.
With India out, Malaysia now have a chance to gain entry. Earlier, Malaysia had applied to join the league but was rejected by the FIH.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHF), however, have decided to take a wait-and-see approach before making any decision on their participation.
Said MHC president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal (pic): “It’s premature for us to make any statement on the matter. We’ll look into the reasons why India pulled out.
“India must have very solid reasons. Hockey India president Dr Narinder Batra is also the FIH president. For them to withdraw, there must be some good reasons.
“If there is an offer for us to take part, we will make sure of what’s in store for us.
“The financial costs of playing in a six-month league is very high. A grant should be given to the teams, especially those from Asia.
“The FIH will soon be holding a meeting to explain the Pro League to all the teams. I hope we can send someone there to learn more about it and see whether it’s feasible for us to compete.”
The Star of Malaysia
Can India handle its awe and shock therapy
EDITORIAL“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.
The above portrayal of Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Tale of Two Cities’ captures aptly the paradox situation in which Hockey India has pressed everyone of us into.
The scenario is still developing.
As of now the Hockey India, unarguably the most affluent constituent of the world body FIH, the unit that has transformed fortunes of hundreds of foreign players through its flagship Hockey India League, has withdrawn both its men and women from what was projected as the ‘revolutionary’ Hockey Pro League. The new league, with FIH ranking points and Olympic qualification inducement, is scheduled to kick off from early 2019.
Missing out from such a major event will have many repercussions for Indian hockey.
Hockey India, otherwise communication friendly, has not spelt out any official reason thereof though some media outlets seemed to have extracted its view points through reliable source /sources.
However, the FIH is prompt: Accepted the National Federation’s decision. It will now follow whatever step is envisaged in the bidding process.
If nothing drastic happens, most likely Malaysia may step in to fill up the vacuum. Its just a wild guess.
Be it as it may.
The last one month has been quite eventful. Not that HWL SF London was so earthshaking. It was not Rio where lowly dark horse Argentina stunned every powerhouse, but only an established entity in the Dutch that regained its pinnacle.
But the London is now talk of the town simply because India’s emotional steps that transgressed ethical standards on the field first, and then how it responded to an unexpected event that happened off the field.
Indian team members wore black arm band when played against Pakistan ‘as a mark of its Army’s sacrifice’. This is not done. This is not acceptable on sports fields. Honestly speaking not many noticed it till HI sent out a boasting press release!
The FIH President Narindra Batra had apologised, a fine gesture, a magnanimous one at that. The FIH has communicated the apology to all National Federations. (It must have been a bitter bill to swallow for the FIH president, who rode to the chair defeating his rivals lock, stock and barrel barely a year ago.)
The matter, it seems, would not end.
A day after India-Pak league match, Indian star Sardar Singh was called by the UK police for detailing which involved, according to Indian team manager Jugraj Singh, 11 hours of journey and four hours of enquiry, which made the play maker stiff and rendered ineffective for the next India match it played the next day. It was against the Dutch.
Narinder Batra, not uncharacteristically, poured his emotions in his hugely followed social media channel. He did not fail to mention in the footnote that his post is by a patriotic Indian citizen, obviously to separate it from any post he holds in the FIH or elsewhere.
The nuance obviously would not cut much ice, and it did not. He has been prevailed upon to delete his post. The FIH which he heads, took credit for it and the apology seems inclusive of this brief online outburst too.
Now, the question of what next?
The series of events have left bad taste in the mouth of everyone. Global hockey community is wonder stuck on India’s pointed and loaded accusations. Usage of match fixing word missed the context as the sports world traditionally understands it, and meant something else.
The sudden withdrawal of India from Hockey Pro League cannot be an isolated development against what all transpired in the fortnight prior to it.
Now that a big decision of this magnitude had been taken, it entails background detailing.
Hockey India is one of the professionally run NFs in the world. Its activities benefited the global hockey brotherhood. Especially, the foreign players in the HIL. Hockey India hosted each year a major FIH event. Each of them -- please remember -- title sponsored by an Indian company. Even the last two London mega events – Champions Trophy 2016 and HWL SF this year – falls under the same. The FIH balance sheet would vouchsafe for the windfall benefits.
Therefore, neither had FIH done India a favour so far nor India the same to the FIH. Each time a tournament was allotted to India both the host and the parent body benefited commercially.
If the proportion is made known it will lead to wide debate and raised eyebrows.
Some section in India argued for long that India has ‘sold’ itself to the FIH which this writes does not endorse simply because selling and buying is need of the hour, driven by market (TV in particular) forces, at the discretion of the of the NFs concerned.
India has stood by its all commitments to the FIH so far. It organized every allotted event from 2010 World Cup to 2016 Jr World Cup with aplomb. Even it set benchmark for commercial windfalls, if not for hospitality.
Besides, having been part of financial bonanza of HIL, cream of world hockey talent enjoyed every event that Hockey India hosted.
Having earned so much good will, India could also post its man at the helm of FIH.
It looked logical corollary.
Yes, the series of June-July events doesn’t go well with India’s hard earned name and fame.
Is Sardar Singh issue so serious for a nation so as to go the extent it went now?
Its hard to believe.
Hockey India did not mind when one of its selected team member Harbir Singh was denied visa by UK for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Yes, it’s rarest of rare case in the FIH’s competition history that a player from a participating foreign nation was called for such a protracted and painful police inquiry midway through a tournament.
The FIH has informed us that the English Hockey will hold an inquiry.
Having made it an issue and brought it to this level, HI must have felt assuaged.
But the decision to withdraw from HPL is ‘awe and shock’ kind of therapy which nobody wants.
Whatever the subterranean currents that prompted the HI to take the extreme step, the world will see it as a bullying tactic.
The FIH may be brave in its subsequent approach, and appear professional too but only time will tell the extent of impact it will have on the very success of the HPL.
The fact that should not be forgotten is past president of HI is now FIH’s.
Recently, during one of the Nationals this writer toured, an official described Batra’s persona. “You never know what he does, why he does, what he wants till he makes it known on his terms! His arrow doesn't aim target directly.”
Therefore, one never knows what game he or HI is upto.
Whatever, the decision to dispense away from HPL would not have been taken hastily, unstudied or unconcerned, without weighing pros and cons for India. For, what is at stake is Olympic berth.
The key for HPL is revenue, which largely means TV. India certainly holds sway here.
Meanwhile, this writer found uncharitable comments of knowledgeable writers making India villain of yet to born HPL. And are quick to say the FIH wasted past decade due to symbiotic relationship with India!
Its too early to say anything.
Batra is official guardian of the FIH and the founder of HI & HIL. Being a shrewd businessman and successful sports administrator, he is expected not to cause damage to either: one he heads, one he loves. He loves both power and passion equally. Each drives the other. He will balance. His approach is always unconventional, awe and shock, verbal, sometimes Trump kind, but in the end he will benefit all.
This not just the fond hope, but time tested reality.
He is guardian of HPL and champion of HIL. Both will survive, wait and see.
Otherwise his place in the history will be differently portrayed.
No longer a situation, a perception, a short phase that the FIH is different from its president, is presentable, desirable and workable.
But the question right now is, can India handle its awe and shock therapy?
Starting off on the wrong foot
Selection of core group for next junior hockey World Cup throws up questions about HI’s scouting process
The 33-member junior core group was selected from a five-week camp for 53 players who were shortlisted from the junior Nationals. HI
Title defence on mind, Hockey India has already started the process to build the team for the next junior men’s hockey World Cup.
A core group of 33 players has been selected, and not a single player from the previous team is eligible for the next edition, to be held in 2020. A national camp is going on under high performance director David John. However, the process has revealed a few flaws, such as the lack of a proper talent scouting system.
The core group was selected from a five-week camp for 53 players who were shortlisted from the junior Nationals in May. Only those born on or after January 1, 1999, were selected, keeping in mind the age cut-off for the 2020 Junior World Cup.
However, the age cut-off for the Nationals was January 1, 1998. This meant that most teams had a majority of players born on or after January 1, 1998. For instance, only 6 of the 18 players in the Punjab team, three-time former champions, were eligible for selection into the national camp. As an exception, the Chandigarh team had fewer players born in 1998 because the city’s main academy was going through a transition of batches; the team could win only two matches in the pool.
“In this age group, one year makes a huge difference, and only the very talented can overcome that age gap,” said one of the coaches who accompanied the Punjab team.
A coach who accompanied the Chandigarh team said: “If they had the World Cup in mind, shouldn’t the cut-off for the Nationals have been 1999? So that the selectors could get to see the whole talent pool of players born in 1999.”
In this scenario, it is not necessary that the selectors found the best players in every position, the Punjab coach said. “What about the states where the competition for the Nationals-bound team is very tough? What about the talented players not selected in the team? Do they not deserve a chance?” the coach asked.
In the group of 53 players, 10 were from second division teams. The competition standard in the second division is much inferior to that in the first division.
One could argue that it would have been unfair to the players born in 1998, who would have missed the Nationals. The federation should have organised a separate camp and trial for the core group.
The coaches questioned the system of the selection committee picking players from just one tournament, highlighting the need for a widespread scouting system in India.
John confirmed that “much of our talent scouting happened at the Nationals”. “I have not had the opportunity to go talent scouting at this stage but I was present at the junior and sub-junior Nationals for men and women where I saw more than 20 teams participate,” the Australian said.
The Punjab coach argued, “How do you gauge a young player’s potential from one or two matches, especially in this case — very few players born in 1999 would have stood out, playing alongside their senior teammates.”
When asked about the selection process, John said: “The core group selected this year will not remain the same right until the 2020 World Cup. From the junior Nationals next year, we will look to add players to this group based on performance. This way, those who probably felt like they missed out this year can vie for a spot next year.”
‘Need to improve coaching’
However, in India, to not be training in the national camp would mean inadequate development of a player. Even John recognises the gap between the standard of training in the national camp and at the domestic level.
“The challenge now is to improve their fitness and put them up to speed with the international standards. I would like to see them improve their game awareness to meet the challenges of the other international team,” John said.
“At this point, the most challenging aspect would be to improve the coaching structure in India. I would be emphasising on coaching under an accreditation system to ensure uniform training which is on par with the modern standards,” he added. “The junior players should be exposed to different styles of hockey as it will help them adapt and cope when they play at the international level.”
Late surge by Scotland U18 Girls but Ireland hold on to take victory
Scotland U18 Girls’ pushed Ireland to the very limit but lost the final game of the series 2-1 at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre.
With some stereotypical Scottish weather, the opening quarter began with both sides having some positive spells of possession. It was the Scots who managed to break through the Irish defence first and were rewarded with a short corner in the opening five minutes, but a good save by Ireland’s keeper kept the score level. The rest of the quarter was a pretty even affair, until the final minute when Ireland managed to score just before the hooter to take the lead.
The second half was very similar to the first with Scotland having slightly more possession, but it was the Irish who looked more threatening in front of goal. As the Irish continued to add pressure to the Scottish defence, they were rewarded with a penalty corner towards the end of the half. It was a similar outcome to the other two games, with a well worked short corner which resulted in a goal, making the score at half time 2-0 to the visitors.
The third quarter started and it was the Scots who applied immediate pressure on the Irish. Some great pressure from the front line resulted in Ella Watt driving towards the Irish D before being fouled by a defender, giving the Scots their second corner of the game. The well-worked corner resulted in the ball falling to Tara Aitchison who fired home to peg one back for the Scots.
The Scots then found their motivation and continued to apply pressure to the Irish backline, but some strong defending by Ireland helped keep their one goal lead going into the last quarter.
Similar to the third quarter, the Scots came out very determined to find an equaliser. An early turnover in the first few minutes by Ella Watt, just on the half way line, nearly proved costly for the visitors as she dribbled down the channel and played an excellent reverse stick shot across the D, but Captain Imogen Davies’ deflection just crept over the bar.
It then prompted a very exciting climax to the game as both teams were applying pressure on each other’s goal. Ireland had a few penalty corners but could not convert. At the other end, the Scots had chances towards the Irish D, but were unable to fully test the keeper. With less than a minute on the clock, the Irish were awarded a penalty corner and looked to seal the game, but some good defending by the Scots resulted in the final score staying at 2-1 to Ireland.
Scotland played some very entertaining hockey over the course of the weekend against a very good Ireland side who travel to Spain to play in the European 6 nations in the next few weeks.
Photos by Mark Pugh and Duncan Gray
Scottish Hockey Union media release
Scotland U16 Girls win final test to take series over Ireland
Scotland U16 Girls’ won the final match of a three-match series against Ireland with a strong 2-0 victory. The result is even more positive for the Scots as the team decided to experiment during this game - it was an opportunity to test themselves in different ways against a strong opposition.
The first quarter saw Scotland play with confidence and an early drive forward by captain Ruth Blaike resulted in Lucy Smith slotting home the opening goal. It was a fine confident finish to get the game off to a great start.
Ireland responded quickly by attacking the Scottish goal but were unable to unleash a shot to test the goalkeeper. Kirsten Cannon responded with a great run up the pitch but unfortunately was not able to get her pass through to the Scottish forwards.
The Scots continued to attack and most of the remaining play in the quarter was in the Irish half. A lovely long ball from Anna Hoolaghan to Georgia Jones, who then found Ellie Mackenzie resulted in a long corner. The following pressure gained the Scots a penalty corner with a minute left in the quarter, but the strong shot was just wide of the mark.
Scotland went into quarter two with even more confidence, and an early shot from Eve Pearson zipped just wide. Ireland responded with some good attacking play however some lovely channelling from Amy Salmon saw the ball going off the side line. The Irish then won a penalty corner from the side line play, which drew a good save from Jess Smith and the ball was then cleared well by the Scotland defence.
Sustained pressure by Scotland in attack was rewarded by a second penalty corner, however Ireland successfully blocked the shot. The Irish frustration was beginning to show as they increased both the pace and physical aspect of their game, but they were not able to connect their passes together and so the quarter ended 1-0 Scotland.
After half time the Scotland team moved to a half court press, taking the opportunity to try out this different structure. The approach paid off quickly when they found themselves with an attacking option – a fast ball from just outside the D was touched by Zara Mason to make it 2-0.
The Scots worked hard throughout the rest of Quarter three and they continued this into the final period of the game, with an immediate surge by Ruth Blaikie just breaking down as she was unable to get a strong shot on goal. As in the previous games, the Irish responded immediately and their attack won them a penalty corner, however the strong shot was well saved by Jess Smith and cleared. The pressure continued on the Scottish defence with a further penalty corner being awarded, this time it was saved twice off the line by the defence.
A frantic final few minutes followed as Ireland pressed to get onto the score sheet. With 90 seconds to go, the normal Scottish summer had returned, and the game finished 2-0 Scotland in torrential rain.
This rounded off a really successful season for Scotland U16 Girls with the team really developing well from their first outing at the Futures Cup last September, as well as the HDM tournament, Wales, Ulster before finishing off with this Irish series. A number of the squad will be eligible for consideration for U18 squad next season, but a strong squad remains with the U16s, promising an exciting season next year.
Full squad for the Ireland tests: Jess Buchanan, Jess Smith, Ellie Stott, Eve Pearson, Georgia Crooks, Ruth Blaikie, Susannah Godfrey-Fausset, Ellie Mackenzie, Katie Swanson, Kirsten Cannon, Anna Hoolaghan, Lucy Smith, Bronwyn Shields, Cailin Hart, Corrie Hay, Zara Mason, Lucy Williamson, Georgia Jones, Amy Salmon and Holly Shepherd.
Photos by Mark Pugh and Duncan Gray
Scottish Hockey Union media release