Some spectacular months ahead

Those following national and international tophockey can expect 7 months of some of the finest our game has to offer… non stop almost… The players combining top clubhockey with international tophockey will be needing the extra long summerbreak after the World Cup ending on June 15, 2014. But for us mere mortals and supporters it’ll be a festival of tophockey leading up to the summit in The Hague when the new (?) world champions will be crowned.

It will all start this weekend when the women will play the first ever World League Final in their own hockey mekka Argentina. A lot of us supporters might be somewhat skeptical about women’s hockey but the hockeyfans of Las Leonas know how to throw a party is the least you can say. Will it come down to the usual Argentina vs Netherlands once again? Or will the German women surprise us again like they did during the EC in Belgium last summer? Or maybe we will witness the return of the Australian women among the top nations? No Red Panthers here this year…

A week later India will see the first of three major international tournaments all taking place in just one European winterbreak… The Junior World Cup for men is being played early December. The best of the best, aged under 21 – or like some would say aged under 23 if you’re Asian –  will compete for the only youth title that means something. If all goes well we’ll be seeing a lot of future Olympians shine on the international stage for the first time. Let’s not forget the podium of the last Olympic Games in London was a copy of the previous Junior World Cup with a lot of the same players… It would not surprise me should the countries on the podium in two weeks time in India will again be on the podium in Rio 2016 !
Early January the stage is set for the first men’s final of the new World League with the top 8 teams (more or less) of the world and again in New Delhi, India. We can only hope the enthusiastic Indian hockeyfans won’t suffer a hockey overdosis and keep on filling their stadia, even if their national team will get their buts kicked… I’m curious to see how this new tournament format will evolve over the next years. The set up allows for more countries to get involved in international hockey but if it’s final will not be considered to be the replacement of the Champions Trophy format it will still lead to a crowded international calendar… We’ll see what happens…
Finally the Hero Hockey India League will be played all over India for the second time. A sixth team has been added to the roster and young Indian talented hockey players will learn form international top players. Even though some of these international top players chosen to play the HIL are somewhat over the hill, a lot of players of the  real international top is present as well and together with the loudest hockey public in the world will guarantee spectacular hockey. One can but hope this initiative will last because it’s not only helping Indian hockey but also showing the rest of the world what is possible to make our sport more attractive.
Unfortunately our Belgian top players are not allowed to play the HIL, neither are the international players playing our competition. Because of a lack of vision and a fear of the unknown from the administrators running our Belgian clubs. Let me make an easy prediction… if we do not allow our top players to join initiatives like these professional competitions/tournaments the level of our own competition will go down again!

Once the Indian winter is over our European competition will resume for some two months and national champions will be crowned before the Easter weekend in Holland, England and Belgium and early May in other countries. At Easter the top of the European clubs will come together in Eindhoven in the Netherlands to play for the EHL title. 3 German, 3 Dutch, 3 English, 3 Belgian and some other clubs will fight for the right to call themselves Europe’s best. All in all some intense months ahead !

Finally by the end of the month of May, when also German and Spanish champions are known the 12 strongest hockey nations will gather in The Hague, men & women for the World Cup played in a football stadium with 15.000 seats. Let’s hope they get filled for a lot of matches and not just those of the home team. Like I said in the beginning… we have some exciting hockey filled months ahead of us!

And to make it even better, as of February, the one change in rules that proved to be a wrong choice is being revoked: the own goal will not be counted anymore and skills will take the upper hand as it is meant to be in our game! Good news !