New Delhi, May 18 (IANS): The stage is set for the Hero Men's Asia Cup to kick off in Jakarta which will see the participation of top Asian countries. The prestigious tournament, set to begin on May 23, is a World Cup qualifier.
India, Japan, Pakistan, and hosts Indonesia are placed in pool A while Malaysia, Korea, Oman, and Bangladesh are grouped in pool B.
In a mega battle, India will face off against Pakistan in Pool A match on May 23.
Speaking on the highly-anticipated match, Dato Tayyab Ikram, CEO and Secretary General, Asian Hockey Federation, said that India vs Pakistan is expected to attract high viewership as always.
"India and Pakistan match has always been better than other properties of world hockey, as far as viewership is concerned. We would like to repeat the same again and try to present the best athletes from India and Pakistan in this context. I think the entire tournament is a package for our athletes of the participating nations to showcase their talent," said Tayyab Ikram, who is also the member of IOC Commission, Executive Board Member of FIH and treasurer of FIH Foundation.
With the Super 4s format introduced in Asia Cup, the prospect of India taking on Pakistan twice is a possibility and Ikram expects the competition to be enticing with former India Captain and two-time Olympian Sardar Singh donning the role of India Coach in the tournament, while former Asian Games Gold medal-winning Coach, Siegfried Aikman will be leading Pakistan's troops as Coach in the tournament.
Speaking on the prospects of seeing two hockey greats facing off against each other, Tayyab Ikram said, "Siegfried Aikman and Sardar Singh are very close to me. If you talk about the management and coaching prospects of these two teams, you need more than coaching itself. Both Pakistan and India have different philosophies when it comes to coaching. Both are very capable. Siegfried has a lot of experience, and a lot of cultures, he has tried to bring on different kinds of projects. Sardar, when he was leading the Indian team, that level of competition has brought him a lot of experience as well. This is very exciting for us and we look forward to the same."
Meanwhile, Tayyab Ikram also went on to address the challenge of bringing hockey back across Asia following the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It was our objective at AHF, along with FIH to provide the best opportunities for our athletes. We wanted both men and hockey to come back to hockey pitches after the pandemic as soon as possible. It was a challenge for us, but it became a realistic objective for Asian Hockey when we were able to provide effective platforms for our women and men athletes in Asia from December 2021. We are very happy we were able to engage with our athletes who were looking for some hockey to play," he said.