Hockey India successfully conducted the 1st Junior Men Zonal
Championships 2023, which concluded on Sunday with Hockey Punjab, Hockey Jharkhand, Hockey
Madhya Pradesh, and Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu finishing as Champions in North, East, West, and
South Zones respectively.
Speaking about the recently concluded 1st Junior Men Zonal Championships 2023, the Coaches of
the respective winning teams emphasised the significance of the experience gained by the young
players through this tournament.
North Zone: Discipline was the name of the game for Hockey Punjab
Hockey Punjab defeated Uttar Pradesh Hockey 3-2 in the Final to lift the trophy. Speaking about the
win, Coach Jagdev Singh Chahal said, “It was a great tournament, to begin with, the players and even
us coaches got a sense of how international matches are held which is imperative in the growth of a
player. It’s these small things that build the character and it is commendable that it is being provided
to them at a young age.”
"Speaking of character, I believe that the players' discipline in the Finals was nothing short of
amazing, sticking to the principles and patterns that we taught even when we were against it is the
sign of a true sportsman and this team did extremely well in that regard, not giving up even though
Uttar Pradesh Hockey took the lead and posting a comeback win over them required a lot of
discipline and determination and I am proud that the boys pulled through," Chahal added.
East Zone: 3 golden rules led Hockey Jharkhand to victory
In the Final, Hockey Jharkhand defeated Hockey Association of Odisha 3-1 to win the trophy on their
home turf. According to Hockey Jharkhand Coach Manish Kumar Randhawa, the team they selected
was full of talented players with a lot of potential. “The players we selected lacked the experience of
big matches, we had to motivate them, teach them how to play aggressive hockey and they took
everything on board very quickly, followed all instructions properly, and that, in my opinion, is one
of the factors of our victory,” he said.
"We had 3 focus points. The first focus point was to play safe passes; no matter how many passes we
made, we needed to keep possession until there was an opening. The second strategy was to press;
if we pressed at the right time and with intensity, not allowing the opposition to transfer the play,
we would win the ball back and attack. The third was to be clinical in the opposition D, either
shooting for a goal or walking away with nothing less than a penalty corner," Manish said while
explaining his strategy.
“Up until now we could just talk about these principles to the boys but you can never win a sport by
talking, now we have a platform to let the kids try out these principles on the pitch and learn first-
hand. Hockey India’s initiative has been huge in boosting the morale and development of the players
in every zone,” the Coach said of the tournament's impact on the grassroots.
West Zone: Hockey Madhya Pradesh Coach Mangal Vaid backed his players to do well in penalty
Hockey Madhya Pradesh defeated 1-1 (3-2 SO) Hockey Rajasthan in a tense shootout to claim victory
in the West Zone. "It is a fantastic opportunity for players who are not selected for Nationals, as well
as for players who may have felt the pressure of Nationals and have not been able to perform to
their full potential. I believe the Zonal format relieves some of the pressure on the kids' shoulders,
allowing them to perform well and prepare themselves for the big leagues," Hockey Madhya
Pradesh Coach Mangal Vaid said.
“These Junior Zonal Championships have been a much-needed shot in the arm of Indian Hockey as
this will prepare players who are accustomed to playing at a high level. A good example of this was
in the Final Shootouts, we reiterated our belief in the players and told the players it is a chance to
win and they are capable of winning if they keep their wits and perform. Kids at this age need to get
more games under their belt and build experience so that they get used to these situations and not
get flustered in the future,” Mangal Vaid said.
South Zone: Zonal Championships a thrilling and fulfilling experience
Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu defeated Hockey Karnataka 2-2 (5-3 SO) in shootouts to win in the South
Zone. “The team had a few coordination issues at first, but the first match went well," Hockey Unit
of Tamil Nadu Coach Arvind explained, before adding, "By the third match against Hockey
Telangana, the players had a good grasp on our formation and rotation."
"In the Final, we learned from our first loss to Hockey Karnataka by starting with a 3-4-3 formation,
setting up for counter-attacks, and ultimately forcing them to penalty shootouts. The Junior Zonal
Championship was a great platform to teach young guns about these different formations, styles of
play, gap creation by midfielder or striker, and other movements that we just can't explain on
paper," he raved about the benefits of giving young players quality playing time.
“The Final match was very memorable, we went to shootouts where Vel Raghavan showed great
composure, in that pressure moment he used a chopped hit instead of dodging and pushing the ball
to score past the keeper, it was thrilling and fulfilling to watch him pull it off,” Arvind recounted the