The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Thursday released the new schedule for the fourth edition of FIH Pro League as per which India will take on New Zealand in the opener at home in October 2022.
India will host the first set of matches with the men’s team starting its campaign against New Zealand on October 28 and Spain on October 30. They will play their return leg matches against New Zealand and Spain on October 4 and 6, respectively. Both the visitors New Zealand and Spain will also play a double-header against each other on October 29 and November 5.
As per the new format, the schedule will be divided into a series of date blocks, agreed by all parties, to assist with international and domestic competition planning, within which “mini-tournaments” will be played where several teams will gather in one venue to play two matches against each other.
This move will have a major positive impact on players’ welfare and the environment, thanks to a substantial reduction in the amount of travel needed for each team and the officials. Another great advantage of this revised format is that it increases the number of dates available for athletes to compete in their domestic leagues and club competitions, the FIH informed in a release on Thursday.
For the first season with this new schedule, matches will be hosted in the following seven nations — Australia, Argentina, Belgium, England, India, the Netherlands and New Zealand. The matches will be held between October 28, 2022, to July 5, 2023.
Sharing his thoughts on the FIH Pro League 2022/23 schedule, the Indian men’s hockey chief coach Graham Reid stated, “Interesting to see the 22-23 Pro League schedule released today. As far as our draw is concerned, it is well spaced out and provides us with practice opportunity before the 2023 World Cup.”
In March 2023, India will play Germany and Australia at home. They will face off against Germany on March 10 and after a day’s break they will take on Australia in their first match of the two-legged tie. The second-leg matches against both Germany and Australia will be played on and 15th March 13-15, respectively. Germany and Australia too will play their FIH Pro League tie against each other in India.
In what appears to be an action-paced Olympic cycle, India will tour to Europe in May and June 2023 for their away matches against the teams like reigning Olympic Champions Belgium (May 26 and June 2), Great Britain (May 27 and June 3), Netherlands (June 7 & 10) and Argentina (June 8-11).
Reid opined that it’s a good development to utilise multiple teams in one location.
“FIH is using the experience of utilising multiple teams in one location from this year, to provide more of a traditional tournament feel. I think it’s is a good development. This will also provide a different tactical preparation between games where traditionally the games against the same team are back to back,” he said.
About the new format, FIH CEO Thierry Weil said, “The FIH Hockey Pro League is still a relatively ‘young’ competition. Therefore, it is our duty, together with the participating nations, to proceed to a regular review and make adjustments as appropriate for the enhancement of the experience. This new schedule will be better for athletes, better for hosts, better for fans and better for the environment!”