Hockey World Cup 2018: China set to make maiden appearance against England

China, which booked a place in the 16-team event after finishing eighth in the Hockey World League Semifinals in London, might have a messy system back home but would like to return as an improved side.

Chinese players during a training session at the Kalinga Stadium.   -  Special Arrangement

China is all set to script history when it faces England in a Pool B match and makes its maiden appearance in the Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium.

Ranked 17, China, which booked a place in the 16-team event after finishing eighth in the Hockey World League Semifinals in London, might have a messy system back home but would like to return as an improved side.

“It’s the first time they are participating in the World Cup, they don’t know how to control themselves. I am joking,” coach Sang Ryul Kim told Sportstar.

Kim, who guided his own country South Korea to a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and mentored China to beat India and Pakistan before claiming the Doha Asiad silver, has got the wealth of experience but can do little.

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“Hockey is not a popular sport in China. Also, the system in the country is different. They were not allowed to participate in the last Asian Games in Indonesia because (people thought) they didn’t have any chance to get a medal,” said Kim with a touch of helplessness.

Understandably, the men’s team trained for just five weeks before leaving for its first World Cup.

According to Kim, whatever popularity the sport gained in China was due to its women team’s silver medal winning performance in 2008 Beijing Olympics. “The problem is politics. With new officials (at the helm), they change things and it’s difficult.”

The contrast is stark though. “They are all professional players. They get paid for playing hockey. After they retire, they will get jobs from the government.”

Kim, who moved to China more than 12 years ago, feels there is enough talent in the country and the team can do wonders with a little support.

“I hope, maybe, after the World Cup we make two teams. One is senior team and the other one is under-23. We will train the under-23 five to six months in European countries where they will play some clubs,” said the 63-year-old, who played when hockey was in rudimentary stage in Korea.

So, what is the target for China here?

“We have a target to learn from all the teams and get experience. In every match we want to beat the opposition,” said Kim.