Indian hockey will hit the restart button and begin the Olympic preparations when the women's team travels to Argentina next week for its first tour in nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly halted all competitions around the world.
A core group of 25 players and seven support staff members will leave from New Delhi on January 3. The Indian women's team will compete in eight matches against hosts Argentina, starting from January 17.
"We have a little over 200 days before we arrive in Tokyo for the Olympic Games in July 2021 and it was very important to play matches against a strong team like Argentina," Indian women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal said in a release issued by Hockey India.
"The team is really excited for this opportunity and has been keenly looking forward to this tour, this exposure will make us understand the level we are at after nearly a five-month long National Coaching Camp in Bengaluru." The Indian women's team last participated in an international tour in January this year when they travelled to New Zealand for a five-match series. They played both New Zealand and Great Britain in the five-match series and were victorious in three of them.
"I am happy that after one year we are able to play international matches. This tour will give us information for the next step to be made in our preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games," said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
Hockey India and the host National Association have planned to create a bio bubble in Argentina for both the teams.
The Indian women's team will be staying in a hotel where provisions to have separate rooms/halls for the team for all the meals, team meetings, sessions etc have been made.
The accommodation will be on twin sharing basis, where the room sharing partners will remain same throughout the tour who will also be same even in case of the seating arrangement in the team coach/bus, this has been planned carefully keeping in mind all necessary requirements.
"This tour has been planned very carefully keeping in mind the safety of players and we are truly grateful to Hockey India and SAI for ensuring we resume competition despite the ongoing pandemic," Rani said.
Among other protocols, the team members will not be moving out of the bubble and meeting any third-party source as even while travelling to the match/training venue the team will be travelling in a dedicated transport which will only take upto 80% capacity.
The entire Indian contingent will undergo COVID-19 RT-PCR Test 72 hours prior to their departure from New Delhi.
There is no requirement of quarantine upon arrival in Argentina but the team will still be following all safety and health measures as advised by the respective Governments of India & Argentina.