Chennai’s last date with hockey, back in 2008, could probably be termed as a fond but distant memory. Stars such as Prabhjot Singh, Rajpal Singh and Shivendra Singh were among those who plied their trade in the India blue, in the Asia Cup tournament.
The trio spearheaded India’s charge to a second Asian title as the host nation scored 55 goals in seven games, and defeated South Korea 7-2 in the summit clash.
Belgium, yet to become a force to reckon with, came to Chennai the next year for a five-match Test series, and India prevailed 4-1. International hockeywas not held in Chennai after that series. The Indian team then shifted base, first to New Delhi, and then to Odisha.
Chennai and the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium had to wait for their turn to host the national team.
On Monday, Udhayanidhi Stalin, the Tamil Nadu minister for youth welfare and sports development, confirmed the wait was over.
“It is with great pleasure that I announce Chennai as the host for the Asian Champions Trophy 2023. It is a matter of pride for Tamil Nadu to be hosting a prestigious international event after a gap of 16 years,” Udhayanidhi said.
Chennai will be the first Indian city to host the Asian Champions Trophy, which started in 2011.
In the recent past, Odisha has been the first-choice for international games in India. The State has hosted two World Cups — in 2018 and 2023 — and FIH Pro League games.
Tamil Nadu, once a hockey hotbed, can reinvigorate the love for the sport in the region, feels Udhayanidhi.
“I believe hosting this tournament will further revive the sport in the region and watching top teams in Asia will also inspire the younger generation to take up hockey,” he added.
A Hockey India committee is overseeing the preparations for the tournament which includes finalising two training grounds for the teams.
The competition will include six Asian nations — India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, China and Pakistan — and will be played from August 3 to 12.
Speaking about the State’s initiative to host the tournament, Bhola Nath Singh, secretary general of Hockey India said, “Odisha is renowned all over the world for hockey.
If you say India is hosting a tournament, people know it will be Odisha. Hockey India will nowprovide support to Udhayanidhi’s initiative to create a similar hub for the sport in Tamil Nadu.”
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