Tayyab, the inaugural FIH Hockey Nations Cup was played just recently in Valencia, Spain (Women) and Potchefstroom, South Africa (Men). How do you look at both events?
With tremendous happiness! These new events have been not only exciting hockey tournaments but an all-around resounding success. Great hockey and state-of-the-art organisation. Importantly: it was obvious that the athletes were extremely happy to participate! My thanks go to our South African and Spanish hosts for their remarkable dedication and work! And my thanks go to all teams, India women and South African men in particular.
Why has FIH created this event?
Firstly, it was important for FIH to create an event for teams not playing the FIH Hockey Pro League but still being very highly ranked. I’ve had many talks with coaches, players, officials and National Association representatives, and there is a clear consensus that this important opportunity for second-tier teams to compete at a high level has been missing from our calendar, and has been missed. FIH is here for its 140 member national associations.Secondly, we did not want the FIH Hockey Pro League to be a closed league. The principle of promotion-relegation in sport is only natural. And fair. Hence the opportunity for the Nations Cup winners to join Pro League in the subsequent season.
Do you consider the Nations Cup as part of the hockey development mission of FIH?
Totally! When we look at development activities, we almost systematically think about programmes for grassroots, coaching, administration, etc. This is correct and absolutely necessary. But creating an event like the Nations Cup does also boost the development of our sport globally. It helps putting nations on hockey’s world map. This tournament is a very welcome addition to our events portfolio!
Following the success of this inaugural Nations Cup, do you have further plans in mind?
The Nations Cup will be a yearly feature from here on out, of course. But I also very much look forward to a consideration process that we will start very soon to see how and where we can best engage even more nations, in addition to Pro League and the Nations Cup, in order to provide suitable performance and development opportunities for more teams, more athletes, and more officials.
When you were elected as FIH President, you said that athletes need to be at the centre of what FIH does. You met the team captains in Valencia (Nations Cup) and Ismailia (African Hockey5s qualifier). What can you share from these talks?
I had very interactive sessions touching upon athletes’ welfare, rights, career opportunities, mental health awareness, event calendar, the IOC Athlete 365 resources as well as Hockey5s rules. More similar sessions will happen in the future.
Some of the Men’s teams will be in India for the Men’s World Cup soon. What do you expect from this event?
Like the Women’s one, the Men’s World Cup is our most prestigious event. Happening only every four years. This is where legends are made, as is commonly said. I’m expecting not only an amazing tournament on the field of play but also passionate crowds supporting the athletes throughout and a world-class organisation by our Indian friends and colleagues. I invite everyone to tune in from 13 to 29 January 2023!