By Vivek Prabhakar SinghBhubaneswar (Odisha)[India], January 28 (ANI): India and Pakistan have enjoyed a great rivalry in hockey. Both teams have a great legacy in the sport and they are both fierce competitors but due to political differences, these two teams do not play often. They only play in multi-nation tournaments like Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Asia Cup, Asian Champions Trophy, etc but not in bilaterals.
The International Hockey Federation's (FIH) newly appointed president Tayyab Ikram wants to revive the rivalry between the two arch rivals.
"In my previous role in Asia that was my top agenda. Now in FIH it is on my top agenda to convince both countries to play together. It is great for countries and people will really welcome it in Pakistan or India. I think it is an opportunity for all of us for bilateral or we can have some events where both countries are qualified or representing themselves," said International Hockey Federation's (FIH) president Tayyab Ikram while speaking to ANI.
These two teams meet each other in multi-nation tournaments but the last time they met each other in bilaterals was way back in 2006 when Muhammad Saqlain led Pakistan played Ignace Tirkey led India. Since then these two arch-rivals have never played a bilateral match.
"It is something which you should continue pushing and convincing. We are on this journey and I believe we can always do better in order to achieve this," said FIH president Tayyab Ikram.Four time hockey world champion Pakistan though are a pale shadow of their old self as they failed two qualify for FIH Hockey World Cup 2023 in India and they also failed to make it to consecutive Olympics in Rio 2016 and in Tokyo in 2021.
"I am leading 140 countries and for me it is really a priority as Pakistan was the top nation before and now they are at this moment standing in difficulty. We are working closely with them. After the 2010 World Cup in Delhi we launched the Hockey India programme and I was very privileged to be a part of it and this can also be done in Pakistan which is really a requirement for us. It is a pressing need for Asia and global hockey," said Tayyab Ikram.
The FIH president is amazed with the way this ongoing Hockey World Cup is being hosted in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. The facilities and infrastructure have been world class.
"As a President of the FIH I am delighted to see the Hockey World Cup being played in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. It is a great experience for our athletes and that is the most important thing for us. We had fantastic feedback from our athletes. They are so delighted to be back in Bhubaneswar and for having this wonderful infrastructure, two stadiums in Bhubaneswar and the new one in Rourkela. It is an addition to our hockey infrastructure," said Tayyab Ikram.
The FIH Hockey World Cup 2018 was held in Bhubaneswar but this year Rourkela is also hosting World Cup matches and the newly built Birsa Munda Stadium has the highest seating capacity for spectators in the world.
"Rourkela stadium from many angles if you see. It is a state of the art facility. Athletes have the best accessibility to enter the arena and particularly for fans and spectators. It is built in the smart way that fans feel that they are very close to the action. So, that is a very successful achievement Rourkela is presenting. We are very delighted and of course about the local fans and community. I think they are super happy to have action in their city. We see that because of hockey, because of that infrastructure there is a very significant change and transformation in hockey. We value it a lot," explained Tayyab Ikram.
India hockey team lost to New Zealand in the cross-over match 4-5 in shootout at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar. This defeat meant that India was out of the race for a podium finish but despite that fans came in large numbers to watch and enjoy the game as fans came in big numbers to watch the match.
"This is very unique, which you see. It is not about non India matches or India matches. The way the local community in Bhubaneswar, Rourkela appreciates. They are not watching as spectators, they are feeling it. So, that tells you the story that they have come to watch those skills, those executions. No matter whose playing and that concludes the crowd in Rourkela had a packed stadium," said Tayyab Ikram. (ANI)