Amidst apprehension that Hockey 5s will slowly replace the 11-a-side format and make the latter obsolete, the world body (FIH) has assured that it won’t let the shortest version take precedence over the traditional style, saying the new version is a “brilliant tale of evolution”.
The Indian hockey fraternity also appears excited to see the new ‘avtar’ of the game, which, it feels, would attract the youth towards the sport.
Following India’s success in Lausanne, where the team won a Hockey5s event earlier this month, the murmurs began over the future of traditional format.
But FIH CEO Thierry Weil made it clear that Hockey 5s is just an addition to the traditional format to make the game more popular.
“Hockey 5s is definitely a welcome addition to the traditional version of the game. All we need right now is a much-needed boost that the game of hockey deserves and Hockey 5s is there to provide it,” Weil told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“We are extremely hopeful that the steady emergence of Hockey5s will immensely benefit hockey in the years to come. That said, we will never let Hockey 5s take precedence over the traditional version of the game. We will never let that happen.
“Rather, Hockey 5s will be a gateway to the age-old format. The shortest format, once implemented regularly, will bring in a massive change to the game of hockey. We have understood that and that is reason, we are eagerly promoting Hockey 5s,” the FIH CEO insisted.
Weil believes both the formats can co-exist, which will definitely be a boon for the game.
“The birth of Hockey 5s is a brilliant tale of evolution that hockey as a sport has witnessed over the last few years. This can be a game-changer in the coming days.
If one closely tracks the evolution of hockey, it is difficult to find any radical change. The Synthetic Revolution happened at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and it is now mandatory to use artificial turf in almost all major international tournaments.
“The FIH has already planned to host the inaugural edition of the Hockey 5s World Cup in Oman in January 2024. The overall aim of this new version is to make hockey more popular than before,” said Weil.
Hockey 5s, the sport’s shortest version which made its senior debut very recently in Lausanne, is all about fast-paced and short matches, lesser number of players involved, and most importantly, the overall vibe, which many believe will largely attract a newer pool of audience — the youth.
Hockey 5s requires the teams to field five players including the goalkeeper. A match has two halves of 10 minutes each and each team can make four substitutions. Interestingly, there is no semicircular area or ‘D’ around the goal. This is significant, as in this particular format, a player can score from anywhere in the field. However, in the traditional version of the game, it is mandatory to go inside the ‘D’ area and score a goal.
Among other features, there are no penalty corners in Hockey 5s. In case of a foul, a one-on-one shootout takes place between the attacker and opposition goalkeeper.
Weil said change is the need of the hour for the survival of any sports and hockey is no exception.
“We want every country, including India, to recognise the Hockey 5s as it is done for the greater good for the game to let it survive in the long run.
“We understand the concerns raised by many players, fans, but, given many other sports in the world that have already undergone massive changes, I don’t find any reason why the same should not happen in case of hockey as well,” he said.
Is hockey going the T20 cricket’s way?
Former India captain Dilip Tirkey doesn’t mind if hockey follows the path of cricket, saying the introduction of Hockey 5s is a significant step towards taking the game to the masses.
“Even if hockey follows the T20 model of cricket, what’s harm in that? I have personally liked the shortest version and the overall vibe it brings. What’s more interesting is the pace of the game which will definitely make it more engrossing.
“Hockey5s, therefore, is a significant step in making the game more popular in the coming days,” Tirkey said.
Another former India skipper and member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning side, Zafar Iqbal too is an advocate of Hockey 5s.
“Talking from an India’s perspective, Hockey 5s is not something alien to our country. In fact, India has already hosted quite a few national-level Hockey 5 tournaments in the past and it has already gained quite popularity.
“Given the fact that the format attracts youth, Hockey5 is a brilliant thing for the future. The format has every ingredient to make the game immensely popular in the coming days,” said Iqbal.
Hockey 5s was first introduced in the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics and since then the format is a regular feature in the Games.
While India didn’t send its team for the 2014 Games, the country won silver medal in both boys and girls’ events at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.