The riveting FIH Pro League action has been hugely entertaining for hockey buffs across the globe. Notwithstanding the Covid-19-induced absence of Australia and New Zealand, the Pro League has lived up to the expectations of all and sundry as matches have been exciting and competitive. Perhaps one area that left a lot to be desired is the scheduling of some of the Pro League matches held in Potchefstroom, South Africa. France men’s hockey team played a gruelling 8 matches (double-headers vs India, South Africa, Germany and Netherlands) at Potchefstroom in 12 days.
Hosts South African men’s hockey team also ended up playing 8 games (double-headers vs India, France, Germany and Netherlands) in 13 days. Germany men’s hockey team also played four games (double-headers vs France and South Africa) in 5 days. France player Victor Lockwood, who was named the Player Of The Match in their 2-1 win over South Africa also put forth his thoughts in a candid manner while talking to the media after the match. “We are very exhausted after 8 games in 12 days and South Africa put so much energy to the game making it a very difficult game for us. This was our last game here & we wanted to finish with a win. Now we can have some rest.”
Modern hockey is about fast-paced hockey and although rolling substitutions are in place, even then it takes a lot out of the players for any side to play 8 games in 12 or 13 days. German captain Mats Grambusch also did not hold back his thoughts after their 3-1 win over South Africa. “In the end we are happy to get three points, our legs are tired after 15 days here,” he told the media after the match.
Even the Indian women’s hockey team were up against an energy-sapping schedule – they played the Asia Cup at Muscat from January 21-28, 2022, where they had featured in 5 games and within three days they were playing back-to-back double headers against China in the Pro League – it meant they played 8 games in about 11 days.
One doesn’t want to be critical of FIH – organisational challenges are always there in pandemic times. Having said that, every effort must be undertaken to ensure players’ interests are taken into consideration and they get adequate recovery time.