During today's last pool match day of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023, FIH President Tayyab Ikram met with press representatives to promote the FIH Empowerment and Engagement Strategy and to answer journalists' questions, together with Hockey India Secretary General Shri Bhola Nath Singh.
The FIH President expressed his joy at returning to Chennai after a long time and reminisced about past visits for events and a high performance course, then addressed the media representatives to provide an overview over his time in the President's office since his election in November 2022.
He mentioned the launch of the Empowerment and Engagement Strategy in the presence of IOC President Thomas Bach in June and said it was very well received. He then described how the strategy was developed and launched in reaction to the many needs National Associations (NAs) from around the world were expressing and the recognition that supporting NAs better in their frontline efforts would be key to growing and promoting the sport of hockey.
Key features of the Empowerment and Engagement Strategy were mentioned, namely the 15-20 free-of-cost Hockey5s turfs that would be provided over the coming year, 300 days of high performance assistance, 200+ days of grassroots coaching from FIH experts, and many other ways in which to empower and support NAs, with the goal of putting 60-70 NAs in a position where they have a strong enough development plan to go on to receive strong support from local sports authorities and their NOC.
Another aspect is the provision of equipment to facilitate participation, as the President lamented the fact that in some parts of the world, young people want to play but have to share sticks or are unable to take up the sport due to a lack of basic equipment and stated the commitment to every NA receiving free-of-cost equipment for young players.
As another priority project, the FIH President mentioned digital activation as a way to reach today’s younger and youngest generations, and he highlighted once more his strong focus on athletes as a core stakeholder group that should be considered in all matters. He described how he was taking a unique approach amongst International Federation Presidents in having met with around 110 team captains at various events so far to interact and ensure them his availability for their feedback and ideas.
Lastly, President Ikram discussed the importance of contributing to communities and society through sport, using the role as a gateway to activate and making the world a better, healthier and more beautiful place.
An important part of this vision is the “Give Back to Forest” campaign, lauded by the IOC President, which has been announced but is set to reach implementation tomorrow with the planting of the first of 100.000 trees in Tamil Nadu, the Indian state where the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023 currently takes place. The Indian part of the campaign has found strong support from Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey and Secretary General Bhola Nath Singh, but the campaign has also already inspired projects in different parts of the world such as 1.000 trees recently planted in Uruguay.
The FIH President also emphasized the current great harmony and solidarity amongst Continental Federations who are cooperating with each other and the FIH closer than ever before. This is also reflected in the FIH President’s agenda in the next few weeks, where he will be delivering the opening remarks at the EHF General Assembly and attending the EuroHockey Championships in Germany, before traveling to Santiago de Chile to join the General Assembly of the Pan American Hockey Federation and attending the Pan American Games and then the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
In reply to the subsequent questions from media representatives the FIH President explained that the recently presented alternative penalty corner trial is in an early-stage trial phase and will see more discussion on options and different ideas during and after its completion. While innovation and evolution are necessary, the protection of the sport’s dynamics is a key consideration, as is the fact that hockey needs heroes, which often emerge in the form of high-scoring penalty corner specialists.
Another question centered around Hockey India hosting FIH events in the future, and the President assured the journalists present that FIH is of course always happy to see its events in places where hockey meets good awareness and passion for the sport, such as India.
Finally, the topic of the reintroduction of the Hockey India League was touched upon, and the President pointed out that HIL, which provides a professional environment and conditions for athletes, matches the athlete-centric approach of his tenure very well and therefore will of course be supported by FIH.