India to compete in Women's Pro League Season 3; Rani, Savita ecstatic

India and Spain have been roped in for this season alone as Australia and New Zealand withdrew from the competition due to COVID-related international travel restrictions put in place by their respective governments.

Indian women's team finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics.

India and Spain will compete in the third season of women's FIH Pro League in place of Australia and New Zealand this year, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced on Friday.

The FIH Hockey Pro League Season 3 begins on October 13 with the Netherlands taking on Belgium.

Both India and Spain have been roped in for this season alone as Australia and New Zealand pulled out due to COVID-related international travel restrictions put in place by their respective governments.

Whenever possible, the female squads of India and Spain will play on the same dates and venues as their male counterparts, who are already part of FIH’s global home-and-away league, which involves most of the best nations in world hockey.

Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Indian Women's Hockey Team will participate in the forthcoming edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League. Their participation will not only give them an opportunity to compete against the best teams of the world, but it will also help us increase the fanbase for the Indian Women's Team. With the Asian Games being held in 2022, getting to play strong teams of the world earlier in the year will certainly be a great platform for our teams to get the right exposure before the all-important Asian Games which is also an Olympic Qualification event."

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India captain Rani Rampal is elated at the opportunity, saying the event will provide them an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best teams of the world ahead of a busy calendar. "This is great news for us. We have seen how much the exposure at the FIH Hockey Pro League helped our male counterparts. They got to play the best teams of the world, and I believe that helped them take their game to the next level.

"Likewise, the Indian women's team is also looking forward to make the most out of this opportunity," Rani said.

Striker Sharmila Devi, who won the FIH Rising Star of the Year on Thursday, stated that it will be a great opportunity for young players of the side. "Playing top teams of the world will provide youngsters like me great exposure. Something we wanted to work on before the Asian Games was to perform under pressure. The FIH Hockey Pro League will be a great experience in that aspect," she said.

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Experienced goalkeeper Savita Punia believes the exposure will help in increasing the talent pool. "We have some very talented junior players coming into the core group. Playing regular matches against top teams in the FIH Hockey Pro League will help the team try different combination of players ahead of important tournaments like the Asian Games in 2022 and the FIH Women's World Cup in 2023.

"We believe this experience in the Pro League will help us improve our game further," said Savita, who won the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award.

With inputs from PTI

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