Hockey India to trial mixed team hockey at National 5s

The ongoing Hockey 5s National Championships for men and women in Pune would see players turning out for an exhibition mixed team event as well on Saturday.

Hockey India "is looking at it positively." Photo: P. V. Sivakumar (Representative Image)

For a long time, the idea of having mixed-gender teams in hockey has been floated around but didn't have many takers. The main concern was the gap between men and women in terms of speed, stamina and physical strength.

But the ongoing Hockey 5s National Championships for men and women in Pune would see players turning out for an exhibition mixed team event as well on Saturday. All eight teams participating in the tournament would compete alongside at least four women in each nine-member squad. At least two women players would have to be present on the field at all times.

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While the national women's team has often trained against Under-18 and Under-20 boys during camps, this is the first time they will play alongside men in a competition. “This is the first time such a thing is being attempted. It's a new idea and we are trying to see how it goes. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is also keeping a close watch on it to see its potential,” Hockey Maharashtra secretary Manoj Bhore told Sportstar.

‘First step’

Not just the FIH, even the International Olympic Committee is in the know of the experiment and keenly following the development. The mixed-team games would be streamed live on its online channel. “The fact that Saturday's matches would be webcast live on the IOC’s Olympic Channel is proof that the IOC is serious about this. This is just the first step but we are looking at it positively,” a senior Hockey India official said.

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He added that this was just the beginning of things and there was more to come. “With the Olympic Charter stressing on gender equality and sports like shooting experimenting with mixed-team events, this is the logical progression for hockey as well to make things interesting in line with other sports like tennis and badminton which see participation from both genders,” the official added.

'Helpful to girls'

The eight teams participating in the National 5s include Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Mahrashtra with several India players, past and present, participating for their respective states. High Performance Director David John, however, was non-committal.

“The Youth Olympics already features five-a-side competition. This may be a way to make the core sport more interesting, like beach volleyball or T20s. May be in future, this may be replicated internationally but not right now. Also, I do see it as being helpful to our girls in terms of accelerating their development. But it can never replace the main thing,” he declared.

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