New Delhi: The full schedule for the inaugural season of the Hockey Pro League is out and the tournament is scheduled to begin from January 19, 2019. According to a release from International Hockey Federation (FIH), the game-changing competition will see the total of 152 matches, which are scheduled between January and June across the world. Also Read - COVID Effect: FIH Postpones Pro League Matches
Nine women’s and nine men’s teams, barring the Indians, will be competing for the Hockey Pro League title, playing eight home and eight away matches throughout the first six months of every year. The top four teams will then compete to determine the winner in a Grand Final later in June. Also Read - Hockey | COVID-19 Experience Made me Mentally Stronger, Says India Men's Captain Manpreet Singh
Spain men will get things underway as they host Rio 2016 and EuroHockey Championship silver medallists Belgium in the opening match of the Hockey Pro League. Also Read - Hockey | Systematic Approach And Two-way Communication Key to Rise in World Rankings: SV Sunil
A busy schedule then follows, with the majority of early matches played in the southern hemisphere.
As one of the early season highlights, Argentina women will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of reigning Hockey World Cup and World League champions Netherlands as the EuroHockey title winners head south to take on Las Leonas on February 24.
Shortly afterward the spotlight turns to Australia as their men and women challenge Oceania rivals New Zealand for continental bragging rights over the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend – March 17. The team’s return matches then take place in New Zealand on Anzac Day – April 25.
Another continental duel sure to get fans buzzing will be Argentina women’s visit to the US. The Pan American rivals, who have taken wins against each other in recent months, go head to head on May 12.
The teams then follow the summer by returning to the northern hemisphere. An exciting end to the League awaits as nations compete to finish in the top four to guarantee qualification for the Grand Final.
With Pakistan men playing in Glasgow, their match against Britain on May 25 is bound to capture the imagination of fans. A large local Pakistani crowd will be looking forward to the friendly rivalry with their British opponents as they aim to defend their home turf in one of Great Britain’s most multi-cultured cities.
Whilst Netherlands fans will be looking forward to backing their team in their homeland on March 5, Germany will be aiming for victory against the European champions on their turf on April 26.
In what will be a unique, double-header weekend, due to their proximity — Belgium men and women will play at home to Netherlands on Saturday before replaying the match the following day in the Netherlands over the weekend of June 8 and 9.
Another highlight in the women’s competition will be the game between continental rivals Britain and the Netherlands in what will be a rematch of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games final. As the world’s number one ranked team, the Dutch will look to gain psychological advantage from their first encounter against the Olympic champions at their home turf on June 1, before heading to Britain on June 15.
Similarly, Argentina and Belgium men also have an ongoing rivalry following their Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medal match. On that occasion, Argentina men emerged victorious therefore Belgium will be wanting to turn the tables in what will be a dramatic end to their season on June 23 – the very last day of League competition.
FIH President Narinder Dhruv Batra said that the FIH will look to finalise broadcast and commercial partnerships across the world over the coming months ahead of next January’s launch. (With IANS inputs)