Hockey India League revival important, will start women's version too: HI president Tirkey

Dilip Tirkey. Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Hockey India's new president Dilip Tirkey is keen to revive the Hockey India League, this time with a women's version as well. HI is working towards possible window in the international calendar for the same.

"Hockey India League is very important for Indian hockey. It is very important for our youngsters as it will provide a good platform for gaining more exposure. We have asked FIH for a window in the international calendar," Tirkey told ESPN during an exclusive interview in Bhubaneswar, on the sidelines of FIH Pro League matches.

"We think we might have to do it in a slot of five or six weeks, and we want to do it in a league system. It depends on what kind of dates we will get from FIH. We will plan accordingly," Tirkey added.

Tirkey also made it clear that the new edition of HIL will involve women teams unlike last time and is hoping the matches will take place simultaneously with the men's teams.

"We are focusing on the women's hockey. We want to do women's HIL simultaneously. We will try our best and work it out," Tirkey said. "Women's hockey has made a lot of progress over the years. They made it to the semifinals of the Olympics for the first time. We also want to develop specialised training programmes for them."

Earlier, the FIH CEO Thierry Weil confirmed that Hockey India has reached out to the world body and both parties are working to find the dates in a busy international calendar.

"They asked to look at the international calendar so that when they plan their league, it is not interfering with other important events," Weil said during a press conference with journalists. "I am sure soon we will have a dialogue together with Hockey India to see what would be the best period for the HIL."

Before HIL came into the picture in 2013, Indian national teams were going through tough times, having fallen way behind on the international stage. The men's team, which had won eight Olympic gold medals between 1928 and 1980, didn't qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games and finished last at the 2012 London Games.

HIL, which ran till 2017, was credited as one of the major reasons for the turnaround of Indian hockey. The players benefitted immensely, improving their fitness standards and tactical awareness. The presence of foreign players and coaches also played a big role in the success of the league. The result was seen at last year's Tokyo Olympics when the men's team won a bronze medal while the women made it to the semifinals after beating Australia.

Nevertheless, Hockey India and Tirkey will still have to navigate issues like financial constraints and a packed international calendar, which were the reasons why the HIL was discontinued after the 2017 edition.