FIH President press conference in Rourkela – Excerpts

With the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 having gotten underway in an incredible manner, FIH President Tayyab Ikram today addressed the media in a press conference at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, Odisha, answering media queries on various aspects of the World Cup, as well as the state of international hockey affairs overall.

Before opening the floor to the journalists, speaking about the World Cup, President Ikram thanked the Odisha government and Hockey India for the incredible efforts put in by them towards hosting the Men’s World Cup in Odisha, India which has made an impeccable start.

“The FIH Hockey World Cups are getting bigger and bigger and the atmosphere and attendances in Rourkela are proof of that. I want to thank all the journalists who are taking our beautiful game to fans all over the world. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the Odisha government, the Indian government and their leadership groups, Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik for putting together this event so beautifully.”

“The event is a great success not just because of the stadium being built and the infrastructure that supports the event, but because of the way it is transforming the community in Odisha. I have had the opportunity to speak to local people in Rourkela and they wished to thank hockey for how beautiful the coming of the World Cup has made the city. It has created an atmosphere of great festivities and not just that of a hockey tournament.”

Thereafter, President Ikram, took questions from the media members about various aspects of the game.

On his first 60 days as President of FIH

“It has been an interesting journey. I have been in and around hockey all my life and I have had goals and dreams for hockey in that entire time. It is just the office of the FIH president that I will try to realise those dreams through now. My plan is to speak to all stakeholders and develop hockey with the athletes and fans at the centre of the game. This is the first time FIH has written to all National Olympic Committees and International Federations, and invited their insights. We will launch new strategies and initiatives after listening to them, soon after the World Cup.”

On other events that might be added to the hockey calendar

“I think we have a robust event calendar with the World Cups, Junior World Cups, Pro League and the new Nations Cup. There have been suggestions from around the world including those from India and Odisha for new events. We are waiting for formal concrete proposals to start analysing them. The Nations Cup is in the right spot because we wanted the Pro League to be open to other nations, which is made possible by Nations Cup. We will plan to involve more countries in the next 25 world rankings by adding another level to the Nations Cup, but it is still under discussion.”

On the biggest priorities in the next 2 years of his term as President

“The biggest priority for me is to engage with all 140 of our national federations and make sure that FIH is relevant for all of them. We are actively developing strategies that will involve the associations and their athletes, giving them the opportunity to develop.

Secondly, the betterment of hockey athletes is another important aspect we are working on. We want to give them better opportunities to develop their skills in hockey and also skills that will be useful for them after their playing careers in hockey.

Yet another priority is the event portfolio. There is a lot of demand for hockey around the world. There are teams like Fiji that were involved in the Hockey World League that we want to involve in more FIH events. Continental hockey is a way to engage more teams like Fiji and develop the game all over the world.”

On making hockey more sustainable

“FIH has already made good progress in terms of sustainability but we are not going to stop there. In the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 the hockey field already reduced usage of water on the field by 40% compared to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. In the Olympic Games Paris 2024, we will further reduce the use of water by 20%. The changes are not going to be drastic and we will keep the athlete’s safety and the playability at the heart of any decisions we make towards our larger sustainability goals.”

On the future of Hockey5s

“Countries all over the world are accepting and adapting to Hockey5s. It is an important tool for the development of hockey. The Hockey5s showcase in Lausanne was hugely successful and we have had great stories from the Youth Olympic Games where the team from Zambia defeated a hockey powerhouse like Germany. The team from Canada, with self-financed athletes, managed to win a silver medal at the games in Nanjing, China. So Hockey5s is a great bridge for hockey all around the world and with the first Hockey5s World Cup happening in Oman in 2024, we will see the next step in the evolution of Hockey5s. Hockey5s is not a threat to indoor hockey in any way at all. We are trying to maximise all formats of hockey, which includes indoor hockey.”

On provisions for countries like Pakistan struggling financially

Pakistan is an important stakeholder in the world of hockey. The greatest sporting property in the world, irrespective of which sport, is India vs Pakistan. We are creating programs for Pakistan and all other countries to give them opportunities to compete at the highest levels. What we need is equal willingness from the countries as well in terms of developing hockey.

The Hockey India model is perfect for countries trying to come up in the hockey world.”

Women’s Game

“The participation in hockey is 50/50 between women and men. That is the current international benchmark that most federations are trying to achieve. We also have great gender equality at FIH events. All official FIH events are for both genders. There is always room for improvement and we are not going to be content when it comes to developing more events in women’s hockey.”

On the future of the FIH Academy

“The FIH Academy and its programmes will be intensified even further in the upcoming months. We will even separate departments for coaching and officiating to give individual attention to both, which is a plan that is already under process. Particularly on coaching, we are on a good path and will continue improving. We were among the top-3 international federations when it came to engaging the coaching community all around the world during the pandemic.”

On the possibility of expanding the World Cup 

“We have no specific plan on increasing the number of countries participating in the WC right now. We may introduce it in the Junior World Cups. Hockey has never had specific continental world cup qualifiers, which we also plan to introduce. This will make the World Cup ecosystem more structured, and it will allow more countries to chart a path to World Cup qualification. Expansion has to be done to improve the quality of hockey overall and not for the sake of expansion.”

To watch the full press conference, click here.