New Delhi: The U-18 Indian men’s hockey team will play their first match against Cambodia while the women team will take on Singapore in the opening match of the Asian Youth Olympic Games Qualifiers 2018, beginning April 25 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Indian boys are grouped with Korea, Japan, Hong Kong China and Cambodia in Pool A while the U-18 Indian women’s hockey team will lock horns with Korea, Thailand and Singapore in Pool B, as per the schedule announced by the Asian Hockey Federation yesterday.
The five-day event is for players between the age group of 15 to 18 years and the tournament, along with the Youth Olympic Games Hockey Competition will follow the futuristic Hockey 5’s format.
Speaking about the Indian Hockey Teams (Men and Women) prospects at the Qualifiers, David John, Hockey India’s High Performance Director said, “With winning this tournament, teams become eligible for the Youth Olympic Games, so we have to go there to win. It will be challenging because it’s Hockey 5s and the nature of the game can be quite unpredictable.
Though Hockey India is promoting five-a-side hockey through their annual national championship event, the players need more exposure in this format. However, the teams are training hard under Jude Felix (for Men) and Baljeet Singh Saini (for Women) at the Agra five-a-side hockey facility. We have 21 players in the camp but after selections on 23 March 2018, the group will be pruned down to 12 players in each team which includes three standbys.”
Hockey was introduced at the Youth Olympic Games in the 2010 edition. The inaugural edition was an outdoor hockey event, in which Australia won the Gold medal, defeating Pakistan by 2-1. In 2014, Hockey 5’s was introduced, and Australia again emerged victorious, beating Canada 3-2 on penalty strokes, after a 3-3 standard time finish. The Women’s edition was won by Netherlands in 2010 and China in 2014.
John further emphasized that doing well in this tournament will give the youngsters good international exposure ahead of the Junior World Cup qualifiers.
“The qualifiers in Bangkok will give the opportunity for the junior players to play an international tournament and see where we stand among the Asian competitors. If we win in Asia and qualify for the Youth Olympic Games then it gives us an opportunity to compare this age group to other countries and assess where we stand. Making it for the Buenos Aires event is important as it provides the right kind of exposure for Junior World Cup Qualifiers which most likely will begin next year onwards,” stated the High Performance Director.