FIH Pro League 2020: While the World Youth will be exhibiting its corporal endurance and training to achieve glory in the Winter Youth Olympics at Lausanne in Switzerland from January 9, the world’s top cream in field hockey will get busy with the second edition of the FIH Pro Leaue at different venues all over the globe.
In the other popular version of the sport, Ice Hockey, Canada Juniors won their 18th World Cup title, defeating Russia 4-3 in a thrilling final on Sunday.
The second edition of FIH Pro League assumes special significance as it is being held in the Olympic year and 16 of the 18 participating teams will play in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games also.
The first encounter of the FIH Pro League in women’s section will be at Changzhou in China where the hosts will take on the defending champions the Netherlands in a double game encounter on January 12 and 13.
On the subsequent weekend action will shift to Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneshwar, in India, where the hosts will fight it out with the Netherlands.
Incidentally India (men’s section) and China (women’s section) are the only Asian teams competing in the prestigious league that will continue till end of June.
The opening encounter that takes place at the Wujin Hockey Stadium in Changzhou on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 January, are the first of 144 matches that will be contested between January and June 2020, with the world’s finest men’s and women’s international teams fighting for the chance to win the respective titles.
The first edition of this trailblazing competition took place in 2019 and featured some fantastic hockey moments, with home fans embracing the opportunity to witness their national teams testing themselves against the world’s best on home soil.
The 2020 edition is set to be equally significant. Twenty venues in 11 countries will host FIH Hockey Pro League matches this year, providing a global spread of world-class hockey across multiple time-zones over the next six months. The fact that 16 of the 18 competing teams will also feature at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 adds even more spice to an event that is, as 2019 proved, rarely short of excitement. All of the competing teams will be acutely aware that a strong showing in the FIH Hockey Pro League would provide a significant boost to confidence levels going into the XXXII Olympiad.
Reflecting on last year’s inaugural edition, FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra said that the event had “allowed the sport of hockey to showcase itself like never before”, as growing stadium, broadcast and live streaming audiences were entertained on a weekly basis by shock results, sensational team performances and extraordinary individual achievements. However, despite being understandably delighted with many aspects of the first edition, Dr Batra believes that the learnings from season one will make for an even better second edition.
“It is not in our nature to maintain the status quo by simply standing still”, said the FIH President. “The 2020 edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League sees the introduction of a new match schedule, splitting home and away matches over two consecutive seasons to create a series of ‘double headers’ throughout the competition. This is an important move in terms of player welfare and sustainability, significantly reducing travel fatigue and environmental impact by cutting the number of flights by half, which in turn substantially lowers travel and accommodation costs for the competing teams.”
Another change from the inaugural edition is the removal of the end-of-season Grand Final event, with the respective men’s and women’s champions of 2020 being the teams that have accumulated the highest number of points by the end of the competition.
The FIH Hockey Pro League welcomes another powerhouse of international hockey to the competition this year, with India men (FIH World Ranking: 5) joining the fold. The eight-times Olympic champions will play their home matches at the iconic Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, the 15,000-capacity venue that so wonderfully staged the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup in 2018. India will be keen to impress in a competition that features the nine highest ranked teams in the world, with Pro League title holders and Oceania champions Australia (WR1), World and European champions Belgium (2), Olympic champions Argentina (WR:4), the Netherlands (WR:3), Germany (WR: 6), Great Britain (WR:7), Spain (WR:8) and New Zealand (WR:9) all involved.
It comes as little surprise that the Netherlands (WR1), the reigning World, European and FIH Hockey Pro League champions, are seen very much as the team to beat in the women’s competition. However, they are certain to be pushed all the way by the eight other teams who are determined to wrestle the trophy from their grasp. 2019 Pro League silver medalists Australia (WR2) – the only team to defeat the Netherlands in the inaugural edition – could well be the team most likely, while Pan American Games champions Argentina (WR3), European silver medalists Germany (WR4), Olympic champions Great Britain (WR5), Oceania champions New Zealand (WR6), China (WR10), Belgium (WR12) and USA (WR 13) will all be looking to make their mark.
China v Netherlands (W)
Where: Wujin Hockey Stadium, Changzhou (CHN)
When: 11 & 12 January 2020.
The facts you must know…
Current FIH World Rankings: China: 10 | Netherlands: 1
Final standings: FIH Hockey Pro League 2019: China: 7 | Netherlands: 1
Previous FIH Hockey Pro League meetings
3 March 2019: China 1-2 Netherlands – Wujin Hockey Stadium, Changzhou (CHN)
Scorers: CHN – Guo Qiu. NED –Lauren Stam, Freeke Moes.
10 April 2019: Netherlands 6-0 Chaina – SV Kampong, Utrecht (NED).
Scorers: NED – Caia van Maasakker (3), Frederique Matla, Xan de Waard, Marijn Veen.
Head-to-heads in all competitions (since 2013 – 11 matches)
Wins: China 0 | Netherlands 11
Goals scored: China 3 | Netherlands 37