HIL ushers opportunities for Delhi’s Stanzl, Mumbai’s Bjorkman

Representing lesser-known hockey nations, Benjamin Stanzl of Austria and Johan Bjorkman of Sweden are excited to take the field in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL), starting from Monday.

Players representing Delhi Waveriders in action in the Hockey India League in 2014. This year, the tournament is scheduled to begin on January 18.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Representing lesser-known hockey nations, Benjamin Stanzl of Austria and Johan Bjorkman of Sweden are excited to take the field in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL), starting from Monday.

Since it is difficult to earn a living out of hockey in the 22nd-ranked Austria and 48th-placed Sweden, players mostly travel to nearby countries such as Germany and the Netherlands to play as professionals.

An invite from the cash-rich HIL is like icing on the cake for them.

Twenty-eight-year-old Stanzl, also a sports and business management student, was thrilled to be part of the Delhi Waveriders (DWR) side, coached by former India coach Cedric D'Souza. In fact, Stanzl's acquaintance with D'Souza during the latter's coaching stint with an Austrian club a few years ago helped the attacking midfielder get into the HIL.

“I have good contact with Cedric. He was in Austria three years before and I was talking with him. Lucky that he picked me and I am playing for DWR,” said Stanzl, hailing from a family of hockey players.

Having donned the colours of German and Dutch clubs in the past, Stanzl now wanted to enjoy playing in India. “I don't have any expectation. Looking forward to play in front of big crowds, learn a few things from the guys here and other foreign players...It is quite a big thing for me (to play here). To watch it and follow it on TV and social media, it was quite good.”

Bjorkman, who has been roped in by Dabang Mumbai, is also eager to have a feel of the HIL. While keeping track of Sweden's progress in the Euro hockey indoor championship in Prague through internet from Mumbai, the striker is looking forward to the new challenge in hand. “All our players are here and 7 days until our 1 game. Excited about upcoming days!” said Bjorkman on Twitter.





Stanzl hoped to meet his Swedish friend sooner than later during the HIL. “He (Bjorkman) is a good friend of mine. He played in Germany. He is also very excited...We came from small hockey countries to one of the biggest hockey countries in the world. So quite excited,” said Stanzl.