Image Credits: @HockeyIndia
The inaugural edition for both tournaments will be held at the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar, which has hosted several prestigious international events.
A total of 14 teams will vie for top honours at the 1st Hockey India Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021, while 10 teams will compete in the 1st Hockey India Sub Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021 that gets underway from 17th March in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
With the two tournaments being held at the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium which has hosted numerous landmark international tournaments including the prestigious FIH Men's World Cup in 2018, the participants are eagerly awaiting to demonstrate their skills at the world-class stadia.
Welcoming Hockey India's initiative to host an exclusive Championships for Academies, Pradeep Kumar Sarangi, Coach, SAI -Academy, said: "Organizing a National Championships exclusively for Academies is a very good step taken by Hockey India. It provides a great opportunity for young and upcoming players and creates healthy competition against different Academies. Our players are very excited to play here at the Kalinga stadium. Whenever we visited the Kalinga stadium for practice or a friendly match with the players from Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre, the girls would take photos of the main stadium but now they are getting to play on the same pitch which hosted many international events. I am also very grateful to SAI for allowing us to hold a month-long camp in February and prepare well for this tournament." SAI- Academy will be vying for top honours in both 1st Hockey India Sub Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021 as well as 1st Hockey India Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021.
Expressing confidence of a good show on home ground, Abhishek Mishra, Coach, Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre said, "Our preparations have been full-fledged, and our training was tactical based. Certainly, playing on our home ground is an advantage as we are very familiar with the atmosphere here. And whatever stats we get from this tournament will definitely help us plan the future in a better way and build on our performance from here on. This tournament will also provide great opportunity to see the level other Academies are at and how best we can improve."
Having created several top women players including Junior India Women's Captain Suman Devi Thoudam, the Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy has been touted as the favourites. But their Coach Paramjit Singh remained modest about their chances. He said, "Firstly, I feel this is a fantastic opportunity to better ourselves for the future. Earlier Academies would have a small group of players where the same players would end up playing two or three Championships a year. With Hockey India introducing new rules where a player can participate only in one tournament, it will ensure Academies will work on creating a larger group of players in the sub-junior and junior categories. Though this year, due to the pandemic, we have not been able to bring our strongest teams, we will know how to plan for this tournament and create good players at the grassroots."
He further said, "For many of our players, this is their first Nationals and ever since they arrived in Bhubaneswar, they have been in awe. They are getting to see the privileges hockey is getting today and also the kind of infrastructure Odisha Government has created for the sport. They are very excited to play at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium and they are surely encouraged to pursue the sport at a higher level."
The 1st Hockey India Sub Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021 will have six days of pool matches followed by Semi Finals on 24 March 2021. The match to decide the Bronze and Gold medallists, will take place on 25 March 2021. Whereas the 1st Hockey India Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021 will have six days of pool matches followed by the Semi Finals on 25 March 2021 and the Final as well as the Bronze medal playoff will be held on 26 March 2021.