Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): A total of 28 teams will battle it out to etch their names in history books as they gear up for the first Hockey India junior men Academy National Championship that is scheduled to start from Monday in Bhopal.
After six days of pool matches, the quarter-finals will be played on October 24 and following a day's break semi-finals will be held on October 26.
The Medal matches of the inaugural edition of the tournament are scheduled for October 27.
Welcoming Hockey India's initiative to organise an exclusive championship for academies, Ghumanhera Riser's Academy coach Baljeet Singh in a Hockey India release said, "This tournament gives those players a chance, who missed out on the state team selections, it gives an opportunity to showcase their talent on a national platform. Exclusive tournaments for academies is a very good move by Hockey India as it will not only give exposure to young players but also motivate academies like us to produce more talents for the country."
"To be honest, we have been really enjoying being a part of this kind of setup. As an academy, it gives us an opportunity to test ourselves about where do we stand, we can get to know about how other academies work, so it's a great platform for players as well as academies," said Baljeet.
He further added that their team had faced difficulties due to COVID-19 pandemic situations.
"Due to COVID-19 situation, it was really difficult to assemble players and form a team, so there were a lot of difficulties initially. But, I would say, we are prepared in all the possible ways, and are confident of performing well in the tournament," said Baljeet.
Speaking about SGPC Hockey Academy's preparations for the tournament, coach Bhupinder Singh stated that the team was very excited about taking part in this prestigious event and players had prepared taking weather conditions into consideration.
"We are very excited about taking part in this prestigious event. We have waited for a long time for any kind of competition. Preparation-wise, we have left no stones unturned, in fact, we have had prepared taking weather conditions into consideration as it will be hot in Bhopal. Also, I think it's a great opportunity for academy players to play on a national level, and it will certainly benefit them," said SGPC Hockey Academy coach Bhupinder Singh.
Meanwhile, Praful Tirkey, coach of Naval Tata Hockey Academy- Jamshedpur, who are grouped in Pool A said, "We have been training since August itself under a bio-secure bubble. Our players had been waiting for a long time for their first competition, and as soon as they heard about the Academy nationals, they got very excited." "It's a great initiative by Hockey India to introduce tournaments for academies because before that a lot of players used to leave the sport because they were not getting opportunities in State competitions, so I think Academy Nationals broaden the scope for them. If more and more players will be involved, more it will benefit to inculcate a competitive culture or to lay a strong hockey foundation at the grassroots," Praful Tirkey added.
The participating teams include Berar Hockey Academy (Vidarbha) Amravati, Naval Tata Hockey Academy - Jamshedpur and Olympian Vivek Singh Hockey Academy in Pool A, while Bhai Behlo Hockey Academy Bhagta, Namdhari Sports Academy and RV Academy of Hockey are in Pool B.
Dhyan Chand Hockey Academy, Mumbai Schools Sports Association, and Raja Karan Hockey Academy are grouped in Pool C, while Ghumanhera Riser's Academy, Mata Sahib Kaur Hockey Academy Jarkhar - Ludhiana, Roundglass Punjab Hockey Club Academy are in Pool D.
HIM Academy, Markandeshwar Hockey Academy, SAI - Academy (Kolkata) and Citizen Hockey XI are in Pool E and in Pool F Hubli Hockey Academy, Malwa Hockey Academy Hanumangarh, Salute Hockey Academy, Republican Sports Club are grouped together.
Pool G will include Jai Bharat Hockey Academy, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Hockey Academy, SGPC Hockey Academy and Thirumalvalavan Hockey Academy. Lakshmi Ammal Sports Academy, Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, Tamil Nadu Hockey Academy, Vadipatti Raja Hockey Academy feature in Pool H.