The Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh has said that the FIH Pro League will help the side gain “some really good experience” ahead of the Asian Games in Guangzhou (China), which will serve as the direct qualification event for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Indian men’s hockey team had missed out on direct qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as they had finished third at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang. They finally made the Tokyo 2020 grade in the Olympic Qualifying tournament at Bhubaneswar in 2019.
“Asian Games will undoubtedly be the biggest event for us this year. The Asian Champions Trophy (in Dhaka recently) was a good tournament to see the progress other Asian teams have made and from what we got to see, surely the competition will be quite tough at the Asian Games as all teams will be vying to make the Olympics cut,” Manpreet opined.
Only the gold medal-winning team in men’s and women’s hockey earn direct Olympic qualification from the Asian Games.
Manpreet, who is back in the national camp along with his team-mates after a short break following their Asian Champions Trophy outing in Dhaka, added on Monday that the Pro League will help the side try out different combinations to fine-tune its game ahead of the Asian Games.
“I feel, the FIH Hockey Pro League will help us gain some really good match experience ahead of the Asian Games. Additionally, I feel the FIH Hockey Pro League matches will give us great opportunity to try out different combinations ahead of the Asian Games.”
Manpreet said the team is upbeat and looking forward to an exciting yet hectic year.
“This year is going to be quite exciting with back-to-back tournaments all year long. We begin the season with FIH Hockey Pro League matches in February. After almost two years, we will be returning to our favourite venue in Bhubaneswar where we will be playing double-header matches against Spain, Germany, Argentina and England,” he said.
The captain said that the camp will be important to assess their performances from last year and also plan for the year ahead.
“It was a very good 10-day break for all of us, spending some quality time with our families. I feel we have returned to the camp feeling mentally fresh and ready for the challenge ahead. We will be assessing our performances in 2021 with the chief coach (Graham Reid) and support staff and we will also draw up a road map for 2022,” added the midfielder.
Ahead of the busy year, when India will defend its title in the Asia Cup, before competing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (July) and then the Asian Games, Manpreet emphasised on the importance of staying mentally fit.
“It is very important for us to remain mentally fresh from tournament-to-tournament. Having faced the challenges of training and playing in a bio-bubble, we have become tougher together and going forward I think the team and support staff will collectively pay more attention to mental health.
“In all, we are geared up for 2022 and wish all the hockey fans a great year and appeal to everyone to follow all COVID protocols, wear a mask and stay safe,” Manpreet said.