New Delhi [India], February 20 (ANI): After a year since they last played an international match, the Indian men's hockey team will be traveling to Europe where they will play two matches each against Germany and Great Britain national teams during the 17-day tour.
The 22-member squad is scheduled to leave on February 21, 2021, from Bengaluru for Krefeld, Germany where they will play the home team on February 28 and March 2, 2021. They will then travel to Antwerp, Belgium where they are scheduled to play against the Great Britain team on March 6 and March 8, 2021.
The Indian men's team last participated in an international competition in February 2020 when they took on Australia during the FIH Hockey Pro League matches held in Bhubaneswar. As a result of the Indian team's good performance, the team had climbed to 4th in the FIH world rankings, India's highest-ranking to date.
Over the past months, Hockey India has been diligently working on analysing and studying the ever-changing situation to work out a suitable training and competition schedule for the team as part of the Olympic preparations.
Hockey India has been in constant touch with a number of countries to make the best of the current situation and to ensure international competitions are made available for the Indian teams as part of their preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games which were postponed from July 2020 to July 2021 and other major international tournaments in the year 2021.
Following the federation's strong efforts, the Indian women's team travelled to Argentina in January 2021 while the Indian junior women's team toured Chile as part of their exposure tours ahead of key events such as the Olympic Games and Junior World Cup later this year.
Expressing his eagerness to watch his team compete, the Indian men's chief coach, Graham Reid said: "We are very grateful for the opportunity to go to Europe, and we are looking forward to having our first competitive matches in just over 12 months. Playing against powerhouse teams like Germany and Great Britain will provide us with great competition and help immensely in our FIH Hockey Pro League and Olympic Games preparation. Playing any top 10 ranked teams is always a great experience for the team."
Reflecting on the team's excitement to compete, men's team vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh said: "We are absolutely excited to be traveling for the first time in over a year. Playing against Germany and Great Britain will help us set the parameters for preparing best ahead of the FIH Hockey Pro League which is our immediate competition ahead of the Olympic Games. We understand the weather in Europe will be quite cold this time of the year, but we have almost a week to acclimatize. We are looking forward to this exciting challenge, we can't wait to get into competition mode."
Hockey India and the host National Associations have planned to create a bio bubble in countries the team will be traveling for training and competition. The Indian men's team will be staying in a hotel where a provision to have separate rooms/halls for the team for all the meals, team meetings, sessions, etc have been made. The accommodation will be on twin sharing basis, where the room sharing partners will remain the same throughout the tour who will also be the same even in case of the seating arrangement in the team coach/bus, this has been planned carefully keeping in mind all necessary requirements.
The team members will not be moving out of the bubble and meeting any third-party source as even while travelling to the match/training venue the team will be travelling in a dedicated transport. The local resources along with the team eg. Team bus/coach, drivers, the support staff will all remain the same throughout the tour to avoid any lapses in any way possible.
The entire Indian contingent will undergo a Covid-19 RT-PCR Test 48 hours prior to their departure from SAI Centre, Bengaluru. Though there is no requirement of quarantine upon arrival in Germany, the team will still be following all safety and health measures as advised by the respective governments of India, Germany, and Belgium. Further, the teams will also be following the Hockey India SOPs as available on the Hockey India website. (ANI)