The Indian men’s hockey team will join the International Hockey Federation Pro League next year after pulling out of the inaugural edition, which began in January.
Welcoming India back in the league, the FIH said the move has been supported by other participating countries.
“Indian men’s team will join the FIH Pro League from 2020 on, as was unanimously supported by the other participating National Associations,” the FIH said in a statement after its Executive Board meeting.
In July 2017, Hockey India had decided to withdraw both the men’s and women’s national teams from the competition.
HI never gave any official reason for the decision but it was speculated that the inferior ranking of the women’s team prompted India to pullout from both the competitions as there was no option to take out just one team.
Hockey India also believed that the country had better chances of qualifying for the Olympics via the Hockey World League.
In the inaugural Pro-League which began in January, nine teams are competing in a round-robin tournament with home and away matches till June. The top four teams will earn a ticket to the FIH’s Olympic Qualification events.
“It is great that India will join the FIH Pro League already next year. There is such a passion for hockey in the country that it will add a lot to our newest competition,” FIH CEO Thierry Weil said.
“Furthermore, FIH would like to thank all participating National Associations who, by agreeing on a common scheme for the 2020 and 2021 calendars, have once again shown the solidarity of the global hockey community and their utmost will to grow the sport together.”
The EB also approved the 2020 and 2021 FIH Pro League match schedule principles. The League competition will be held within the first six months of every year and all these matches will remain ‘home games’.
The away games willbe kept too but will now be split over two consecutive seasons and work according to the following example: In 2020, Team A will host Team B twice within a couple of days, and in 2021, Team B will host Team A twice within a couple of days.
“This scheme reduces by half the travel of the teams compared to the current format, therefore decreasing costs for teams, benefitting athletes’ welfare and reducing the impact on the environment,” the FIH said.
As India are not playing in the FIH Pro League this year, they are banking on the Hockey Series Finals to qualify for next year’s Olympics. Bhubaneswar is hosting one of the three Hockey Series Finals in June.