The International Hockey Federation has left the doors open for the eight-time Olympic champions India to join its ambitious Pro League, set to be introduced in 2019. FIH CEO Jason McCracken has welcomed India with open arms and said hockey is “stronger” when India is around.
The FIH assurance comes despite India pulling out of the event initially.
“The FIH would be delighted to have India as part of the Pro League. I think in future when the time is right I hope India will be joining us because hockey is strong when India is there,” McCracken said during a Press conference in Bhubaneswar on the sidelines of the ongoing Hockey World League (HWL) Final. “We are always talking to Hockey India. The doors are always open. There is a process by which countries can join the Pro League.”
“The doors are open now. We are working on the schedule. There will be 144 games all over the world so we have to adjust the schedule. There is a process and not only India other countries can join the Pro League,” McCracken said in response to a question whether India can join the maiden edition of the Pro League after initially withdrawing from the event, the FIH.
The Pro League is being projected as the most prestigious hockey event after the Olympics and World Cup. The home-and-away format league that will feature nine countries in both men’s and women’s competition. “We think it is going to be a fantastic success because all the 144 games will be a home match for one or the other team. When we see India play we see a packed stadium and that’s what we want to see all over the world,” he said.
India was initially part of the nine nations in both men’s and women’s hockey for the Pro League set to be played between January and July 2019, with the top four teams assured of Olympic qualification for 2020.
But Hockey India withdrew from the event, saying that they don’t see the tournament helping its women’s team qualify for the Olympics or World Cup.
After HI announced their withdrawal, the FIH had named Spain and Belgium as replacements in the men’s and women’s competitions of the league.