The countdown to the much-awaited Hero Hockey Asia Cup Bangladesh 2017 is finally over with the coveted event starting on October 11 at the Maulana Bhashani National Stadium here in Dhaka. While the participating teams have descended in the capital city, hockey lovers from across Bangladesh as well as other parts of Asia will be present in large numbers to cheer for their favorite hockey stars.
The opening match of the tournament between India and Japan on Wednesday will unfold a slug-fest with teams battling it out to lift the prestigious title that will elevate the winning team to No.1 position in Asia.
While top ranked team in the competition India will play for pride and aim to retain their No.1 status, teams such as China, Korea, Japan, Bangladesh and Oman will battle it out to earn a berth for Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2018 in Bhubaneswar, India. Though India have qualified for the World Cup as host country, Malaysia and Pakistan won the ticket to the World Cup by finishing 5th and 7th respectively in the Hero Hockey World League Semi Final earlier this year in London.
In the official Press Conference on Monday, Dato’ Tayyab Ikram, the Chief Executive of the Asian Hockey Federation, Member of the IOC Commission, hoped the tournament opens the door of new opportunities for hockey. “We have been waiting for a long time to see Dhaka step into the modern hockey arena, this edition of Hero Asia Cup 2017 is a special one with the Asian Hockey Federation extending all the support behind it, I thank all the involved stakeholders and Bangladesh government for hosting the meet, I hope Hero Asia Cup 2017 will produce a brilliant level of hockey” said the Chief Executive of the AHF.
That this prestigious event returns to Dhaka after 32 years calls for jubilation with hosts Bangladesh Hockey Federation supported by event sponsors Hero MotoCorp, Indian motor cycle and scooter manufacturing giant, leaving no stone unturned in their preparations to make this year’s Hero Asia Cup a grand success. “It is a momentous occasion for us as the Hero Asia Cup 2017 is being hosted in our country after a span of 32 years. This event will not only bring hockey lovers from across Bangladesh to watch best teams compete for top honours but those traveling for the event to Dhaka will get to witness the warm hospitality of the people of Bangladesh and will also get a chance to soak up our culture,” expressed an elated Abdus Sadeque, THE General Secretary of Bangladesh Hockey Federation.
“I always believe that hockey has a special place in Bangladesh, with all the modern facilitates like the newly installed floodlights the Asia Cup 2017 is the platform from where we can look and jump forward” added Sadeque.
Four-time Asia Cup winners and the defending champions Korea will remain tough contenders for the title with their coach sounding off a caution to other teams as they arrive in Dhaka with an eye on the World Cup Qualification. India, on the other hand, will watch out for Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh who have the ability to spring a surprise on any given day. “I am aware we go into the tournament as the favourite to win but we cannot be complacent about any participating team as each one is capable of coming up with a tough fight. Winning the tournament is a priority but to do that, we would like to take each match at a time and make sure we perform well in all aspects of the game,” expressed Manpreet Singh, Captain, Indian Men’s Hockey Team.
For some of the participating teams, the Hero Men’s Asia Cup 2017 is not just about winning but also finding the right balance in the team and find out new ways to improvise in this new Olympic cycle. “For China, this is a transitional period with many of our senior players retiring and for the new and young players this is great exposure. While qualifying for the World Cup is the aim, we want to find out how well the team can stand up to the challenge and this will help us find out the areas that needs to be worked on to become better before the qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” expressed Chinese Coach Liu Dongwei.
The event was held at Pan Pacific Hotel, Dhaka and was attended by the captains of participating teams apart.