After a reinvigorating 2021, the Indian men’s hockey team is all set to embark on a new mission as they gear up to take on hosts South Africa and France in the opening matches of their FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 campaign, starting from Tuesday 8 February 2022 in Potchefstroom. The world No. 3 side, which will play two matches apiece against both teams on the tour, are aiming to gain momentum and make a positive start to the busy 2022 season.
“We are really excited for our first assignment of 2022. We begin our season against two quality sides, so it’s a great thing. Our focus is to gain momentum, and make a positive start as we approach this year step-by-step. These FIH Hockey Pro League matches will certainly help us prepare for the forthcoming major events,” stated the Indian Vice-Captain Harmanpreet Singh.
India will play their first match against France on Tuesday. The last time both the teams faced each other was during the 2015 Fintro Hockey World League Semi-Final Antwerp, with India winning the match 3-2. Speaking ahead of the game, Harmanpreet said that the match will be challenging for his team. “We haven’t played against France in a long time. They are a really good side, and, no doubt, it will be a challenging match for us,” he said.
“Our focus will remain on playing good hockey, executing our skills, and making the best out of the opportunities. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s match. We will definitely give our 100%, and hopefully, start the campaign with a win,” the Vice-Captain added.
The Manpreet Singh-led India will then square off against the home side South Africa on Wednesday. The last time both teams faced each other was during the Final of FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019, which India won 5-1 to seal a spot for the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha 2019. The overall head-to-head record (since 2013) belongs to the visitors, with India winning all three matches against the hosts.
When asked about facing World No.10 side, the 26-year-old player said,” South Africa are a quality team. They are currently ranked 10th in the world, and are capable of beating any team on a given day, so you just can’t underestimate them. It will certainly be a good challenge for us, and we are really excited to face a good team like South Africa.”
Harmanpreet further added that these matches will not only help the team gain experience but will also give them the understanding about where they stand with regards to their game as well as training.
“We have a busy 2022 year, with a lot of important tournaments lined up in the next 12 months, so we need to ensure that we are fully prepared. I think the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 matches will not only help us gain the experience but will also give us the understanding about where we stand with regards to our game as well as training. You see, there’s always room for improvement, so apart from executing our skills and plans, our focus will also remain on improving our game, and that’s where I think Pro League matches will play a vital role.” Harmanpreet concluded.
After a two-day break, India will play France on 12 February at 2130hrs IST and hosts South Africa on the 13 February at 2130hrs IST.
Matches will be live on Star Sports Select 2 and Star Sports Select 2 HD. Matches will also be shown live on Hotstar.