Lausanne (Switzerland), Oct 8 (IANS) The national women’s teams of India and Spain have been invited to be part of Season 3 of the FIH Pro League that is starting on October 12 with a match between title-holders, world champions, and Olympic gold medallists, The Netherlands and Belgium.
Both teams will replace — for this season only — Australia and New Zealand, who last month announced that they will not participate in this season’s FIH Hockey Pro League due to Covid-related international travel restrictions put in place by their respective governments.
However, Australia and New Zealand will join the Pro League again for Season 4, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced on Friday.
Whenever possible, the female squads of India and Spain will play on the same dates and venues as their male counterparts, who are already part of FIH’s global home-and-away league which involves most of the best nations in world hockey, the FIH said.
With India and Spain, the third edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League welcomes two teams who played brilliantly at the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo, the release said.
India finished fourth in Tokyo after stunning Australia in the semifinals while Spain narrowly missed reaching the last-four stage, losing to Great Britain in a shoot-out in the quarterfinals.
FIH CEO Thierry Weil welcomed the two teams to the Pro League. “It’s wonderful to welcome such great teams as India and Spain for the next edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League, especially after their brilliant performance in Tokyo. This is great for the athletes and great for the fans! On behalf of FIH, I’d like to extend our sincerest thanks to Hockey India and the Royal Spanish Hockey Federation for having accepted our invitation.”
Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam saw this invite as a great opportunity for the Indian women’s hockey team in 2022. “With the Asian Games being held in 2022, getting to play strong teams of the world earlier in the year will certainly be a great platform for our teams to get the right exposure before the all-important Asian Games which is also an Olympic Qualification event,” he said.
Besides The Netherlands, Belgium, India, and Spain, the other teams In the 9-team FIH Women’s Pro League are Germany, England, Belgium, Argentina, and the United States.
The Indian women’s team will open its FIH Pro League campaign with a double-header against the Netherlands on February 19 and 20, 2022 in the Netherlands.
The men’s team will launch its campaign with home fixtures against Spain on February 26-27, 2022. As of now, there are only seven teams in the men’s section — India, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, England, Argentina, and Spain.
The FIH will be announcing a replacement for Australia in the men’s Pro League in a couple of days.