Hockey India (HI) Secretary General Bhola Nath Singh on Wednesday suggested that if the Pakistan hockey team can come to India for the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai, then the Men in Blue should also tour their neighbouring country.
If India men’s hockey team failed to win a gold medal in Asian Games they will have to play in Pakistan to qualify for Paris 2024 Olympics. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) last month confirmed that China, Pakistan and Spain will host the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers taking place from January 13 to 21 in 2024.
Pakistan is set to host an international hockey event after nearly 19 years. Eight teams will compete in Lahore from January 13 to January 24 of next year. Pakistan last hosted a FIH competition in 2004.
“Indian government’s Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said very clearly that the Indian team will not be stopped for going anywhere to play an important tournament. That is his statement and this is an Olympic qualifying tournament. It is a major tournament. I don’t think the Indian government will say no to sending a team for such an important tournament. If needed I will speak to the government after all it is a question of the Olympics. I don’t think there will be any hindrance to this. The rest is up to the Pakistan government and how they organize a tournament. How is the security there? Pakistan team is coming here to play then why can’t we? Sports Minister is very clear on this that there will be no hindrance to tournaments like this. Cricket is cricket and hockey is hockey,” Bhola Nath Singh said in a press conference.
China and Spain are the other two nations scheduled to host the men’s and women’s competitions, along with Pakistan. Each tournament will consist of 8 teams (16 teams per gender in total).
Women: Changzhou, China (one tournament) and Valencia, Spain (one tournament).
Men: Lahore, Pakistan (one tournament) and Valencia, Spain (one tournament). The top 3 teams in each of these FIH Hockey Olympic Qualification Tournaments will qualify for Paris 2024.
“Well I think there are some strong examples. You had England, Australian, New Zealand cricket going again and again to Pakistan. They have created a very positive atmosphere there. As you heard Hockey India’s commitment towards it. So, I think all other things will just be speculations only,” FIH President Tayyab Ikram told ANI.
Coming to the current tournament, the Indian men’s hockey team is facing Pakistan in its last group match of the Asian Champions Trophy Hockey 2023 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai. The clash between India and Pakistan hockey teams fixtures have produced some pulsating contests over the years.