FIH dismisses PHF claim of India-Pakistan Olympic qualifier in Europe

Pakistan will have to travel to India if the two nations are drawn together for their Olympic men’s hockey qualifying match. The world governing body for hockey, FIH has dismissed Pakistan Hockey Federation’s claims that the India-Pakistan Olympic qualifier can be staged at a neutral venue in Europe.

India, ranked third for the Olympic qualifiers, is among the top seven teams with the “host nation” status, whereas 13th-ranked Pakistan figures in the lower pool of the “away teams”. The teams ranked 1st to 3rd will be drawn at random to play at home against one of the teams ranked between 12th and 14th.

The equation creates a probability of Pakistan being drawn to play their two qualifying matches for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics against and in India when the opponents for the two-leg Olympic qualifiers are confirmed on September 9, Monday, following a draw at the FIH headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation was keen to play at a neutral venue in Europe if they were drawn against India. A PHF official last week had also claimed that the FIH was considering the idea of staging the potential matches there due to recent political tensions between India and Pakistan.

However, the International Hockey Federation does not intend to hold Olympic men’s qualifying matches between India and Pakistan in Europe, if the two countries are drawn.

The FIH, in an email to India’s national news agency PTI, has dismissed the PHF’s claims as “wrong”.

The seven Olympic qualifiers between October 26 and November 3 will each feature two nations playing two back-to-back matches, with nations drawn to play each other based on their rankings at the end of the 2018-2019 Continental Championships.