Men's Hockey Junior World Cup: Buzz and excitement missing
Men's Hockey Junior World Cup is a low-key affair due to the pandemic. All this might have taken some sheen away but that does not make the World Cup any less significant
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, spectators are not allowed at the Men's Hockey Junior World Cup. The marquee quadrennial 16-nation tournament is being played behind closed doors and in a tight bio-secure environment. In the absence of spectators, the buzz and excitement is definitely missing and so is the festive atmosphere, the cheers, the sound, the crowd.
The iconic Kalinga Stadium, which is normally buzzing on the eve of a match, is being stripped off its usual fanfare. There’s is no mad rush outside the stadium for tickets, no merchandise stall, no vendors selling flags, and no face-painters. Security guards are strictly doing their duty by allowing only the accredited personnel inside the stadium. The Junior World Cup is a low-key affair due to the pandemic. All this might have taken some sheen away but that does not make the World Cup any less significant. A World Cup is a World Cup, after all, with or without spectators.
India - Pakistan Hockey Diplomacy
Thanks to the Junior Hockey World Cup, India – Pakistan Hockey diplomacy got revived after 3 years. For the first time since 2018, the Pakistani hockey team arrived in India to participate in the Junior Hockey World Cup. The last time a Pakistani hockey team was in India was for the senior World Cup in 2018. Before that, they had participated in the Champions Trophy in 2014. Pakistani players were not issued visas for the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2016 – the year of the Pathankot and Uri attacks, which was followed by the surgical strikes.
A platform to mould youngsters into individuals
The experience in the Junior Hockey World Cup will definitely help players in their overall development. Apart from providing a global platform to the participating nations to groom their young talent, the tournament offers the countries a fantastic opportunity to expose their players to varied cultures from around the world and help them grow as individuals so that they can make it to the men’s national team. The players will also learn from watching these 16 nations. It’s a good way to know which countries are going to do well in the next eight years. No wonder then, the teams (India and Belgium) that played in the final of the last Junior World Cup in 2016 finished at first and third position in the Tokyo Olympics. Seven Indian and five Belgian players, including reserves, from that Junior World Cup final in 2016 played in the Tokyo Olympics. In that context, the Junior World Cup assumes a lot of significance.
Covid-19 protocols in place to keep all participants safe
On an average, 500 tests are being conducted at the Junior Hockey World Cup, and reports are being generated on the same day. Every 72 hours, all players, officials, hotel staff and associates are retested. Designated officials of the Sports and Youth Services Department personally oversee the entire process while ensuring no one misses the cycle of 72 hours. The media personnel covering the event are also tested after every 48 hours for Covid-19.