Hockey India has decided to allow national team players, men’s and women’s, to participate in both domestic tournaments and foreign leagues. This decision was taken at an executive committee meeting two months ago.

As reported by the Hindu on Sunday, the federation will allow players to sign up with foreign clubs and turn out for their respective organisations in domestic competitions – provided their contracts do not clash with international schedules and national camps being non-negotiable.

This development comes after the federation discussed the revival of the erstwhile Hockey India League at the 100th Executive Committee meeting earlier this month.

Increasing efforts to make the sport more popular in the country and giving more chances for younger players to break through were some of the reasons given by Hockey India chief and former men’s captain Dilip Tirkey.

“There were quite a few reasons considered — organisations make sports quota appointments but the players do not turn up for their employers, which obviously affects the younger players’ chances. It is also important for the public to watch the big names in action if we want the sport to become popular again. And the youngsters still starting out are motivated by playing with their idols and learn a lot from them,” said Tirkey, who has played in the previous edition of HIL, Premier Hockey League and also in the inaugural season of Pakistan’s Super Hockey League.

Last held in 2017, the HIL has also seen players such as Jarmanpreet Singh and Amit Rohidas, now mainstays of the men’s team, emerge through the ranks and shine in the senior team.

Furthermore, according to Moritz Fuerste, a two-time Olympic gold medallist from Germany, the HIL was the foundation for India winning bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – their first hockey Olympic medal in 28 years.

For the women also, it gave a lot of impetus to those players who were unable to progress into the junior or senior teams, with former captain Pritam Siwach also indicating that participation in the HIL was financially beneficial for the players.

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Although there might be lesser rest days for players considering the number of national camps held throughout the year, it could prove to be further impetus for both the men’s and women’s teams with the pressure to qualify for the Olympics once again.

“Playing in European leagues is slightly difficult because they have two-three month long contracts and are divided into two seasons in a year. Given the international schedule, it will be hectic for the players. But in principle, we have approved it. If there is a gap in the calendar and players can work out their schedules and contracts with the clubs, they will not face any objection from us. Camps for tournaments are non-negotiable but otherwise we won’t stop them,” said federation secretary general Bhola Nath Singh.

Former captain Sardar Singh was the last Indian player to sign with foreign clubs, playing for Belgian club KHC Leuven and Dutch club HC Bloemendaal in 2010.