The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) on Wednesday said it will conduct the Olympic qualifiers independently if the postponed Hangzhou Asian Games are not held by September next year.

The Games, which were scheduled to be held from September 10 to 25 this year, have been postponed indefinitely due to the spread of COVID-19 in China. The new dates will be decided in future.

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AHF’s chief executive officer Tayyab Ikram said the AHF was closely monitoring the situation and was in regular consultation with Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). “The Asian Games is an Olympic qualifier for the continent, but we still have enough time in hand. If the Asian Games Games are postponed to September 2023, we will be in the same position to conduct the qualifiers. We are closely monitoring the developments,” he said during a virtual press conference ahead of the men’s Asia Cup, to be held in Jakarta.

Plan B

“We do have a ‘Plan B’, an independent Olympic qualifier tournament for Asia if the Asian Games are postponed beyond September 2023. We want to provide fair opportunity and even platform to our players. But we have to see the feasibility. We are very positive at this stage.

“The pandemic in China is much more in a precautionary level now... we are closely monitoring the situation there. We will implement ‘Plan B’ if required.”

Asked if there was any time frame to fall back on ‘Plan B’, Ikram said: “For us it is very clear if the decision is that Asian Games will be held in September 2023 or before; obviously, the OCA has to make that decision. If that happens it's fine or else we will have to implement ‘Plan B’. I'm not too concerned about the first half of 2023.”

The Hangzhou Asian Games is of high value for the hockey teams of the continent as Olympic berths are at stake in both men's and women's events. The winners will earn direct right to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Meanwhile, the Asia Cup in Jakarta from May 23 to June 1 is a World Cup qualifier.

Being the host, India has secured a direct entry in next year's World Cup but the Olympic bronze medallists would look to defend its title in the Asia Cup. India will open its campaign against arch-rival Pakistan on the opening day of the tournament.