Window almost fixed for Hockey India League, no talk about replacing Schopman: Dilip Tirkey

Dilip Tirkey. Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey is hopeful the much-anticipated revival of Hockey India League (HIL) will happen this year in December or early next year once the world governing body FIH gives its approval.

Talking to ESPN on the sidelines of FIH Pro League in Bhubaneswar, Tirkey said that work is almost done with regard to HIL, and they are looking at the time frame between December '24 and January '25 to start the league.

"We are almost done with the talks about the window for Hockey India League. We have already announced a commercial and marketing agency for the league.," Tirkey told ESPN.

The new HIL will feature eight teams in the men's category and four in women's and their matches will take place simultaneously. Tirkey said he's getting positive responses from prospective franchises who'll own the teams.

"We are getting positive responses, which is really good for the future of Indian hockey," he said.

He added, "We are still thinking about the venues. We will take a decision on whether to do the league in a home-away format or conduct it in two or three venues."

The year 2024 is hugely important for India hockey. The men's team will feature in Paris Olympics where they will look to better from their previous effort of winning the bronze medal in Tokyo and then the hope is that domestic hockey will get a big boost with the start of HIL.

Regarding the women's national team, which failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics, Tirkey said that overall performance of the team has been good over the last few years, but they couldn't make it count when it mattered the most.

"It's bad luck. We have been playing well. We won a few tournaments; we became champions in the FIH Nations Cup and Asian Champions Trophy. Against Germany (in Olympic Qualifiers) we were leading in the shootout but couldn't make it count. We had defeated Japan in the Asian Champions Trophy and at the Asian Games, but couldn't get the results in Olympic Qualifiers.

Head coach Janneke Schopman has been under pressure after the Olympic qualification failure, but Tirkey reiterated that the board is not looking to change coaches yet.

"We haven't decided on anything. Now Pro League matches are happening and there are more matches in May. We'll see, we haven't decided yet," he said.

The women's team suffered three back-to-back defeats in the Pro League before they secured a 3-1 win over USA on Friday.

The situation is completely different with the men's head coach Craig Fulton. Tirkey said the team is benefiting from South African's coaching pedigree.

"He's a very experienced coach at the top level. You see, Fulton had coached the Ireland team and helped them qualify for the 2016 Olympics for the first time (and the 2018 World Cup). He was then associated with the Belgium team and helped them to win Olympics gold and the World Cup. That kind of coaching experience mattered a lot. We saw the Indian team's performance at the Asian Games, where they won the gold to qualify for the Olympics," he said.