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When we made Coach Kabir Khan proud: Hero Hockey World League

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The Hero Hockey World league came to India like a whirlwind and left before people even realized it was there.

I know about it because it happened in my hometown, Raipur (I am not your regular sports-keeda, you see).

So while some parts of the country remained untouched by this gigantic happening, others had their world change suddenly.

The Hockey World League spans over two years, and the men’s tournament final has been held in India twice in a row now.

Dummy’s guide (I hope there are more in the world, other than me)

  • International Hockey Federation or FIH (twisted name, twisted abbreviations) uses this league to decide which teams qualify for the Olympics and FIH world cups apart from the continental champs and the host countries. A pretty cool system; it gets publicity as an independent league, it gets big sponsors (Hero, need I say anymore?), and the hassle of the selection is reduced to a minimum. And hockey gets its share of the limelight as a sport.
  • A total of 4 rounds in the tournament, the first and the second, are hosted in April in odd years. The semi-finals and finals in the subsequent year.
  • Round 1 is the local round, Round 2 regional (here region means several continents), Semis and finals are global (goes without saying, doesn’t it?)

This year, it was the final, which took place in India, Raipur to be precise, which is in Chhattisgarh, not Chandigarh, mind you (yes, we take offense because it has been 15 years, for God’s sake!)

27th November to 6th December. The city was a different kind of festive, with many goras roaming around (pardon the minute racism, but that’s how the locals perceive it). Each day the newspaper would be plastered with who had won the last match, what was happening that day, and more.

It did not garner the amount of publicity a cricket tournament gets, but that it happened in India and will happen here again next time is something to go by.

For those of you who missed this entirely, the results were expected. Australia won the league against Belgium, which stood second (Aus won with 2-1); the match was impressive but a bit predictable because Australia had the lead the whole time, and boy! Is the team strong!

The funniest thing was something I saw in today’s paper. When does it happen that the winning team gets less coverage than the team that bagged third place?

The host country came in third.

India bagged the third position with a close match against the Netherlands; we won by inches (read penalty shoot-outs), making the Netherlands, the last time champions, come a sad fourth. But that’s not a very sad thing because some position is better than no position, I would say. And hey, bad times come to everyone.

While I missed out on most of this league (not regretting), it was worth watching when I actually did see it. The Cherry on the cake is that we now qualify for men’s hockey in Olympics 2016 in a twofold manner, one through the Asian games 2014 at South Korea, and second by being in the top 6 in the men’s hockey world league (although they don’t consider the second because of the first, hey, that shows we are good).

What’s more, the women’s team has qualified for the Olympics by being in the top 5 in the Women’s FIH Hockey World League Semifinals, a comeback after 36 years!

I think this Olympics it’s going to be Chak De! India. What do you think?

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