Despite an increasing number of players getting infected and the near-certain postponement of their only scheduled international tournament this year, the training camp of the men’s hockey team is on track at the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) National Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru.
On Monday, SAI said that forward Mandeep Singh became the sixth India player to test positive for Covid-19 upon reaching the Bengaluru campus to report for the national camp. On Friday, five other players – captain Manpreet Singh, goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, defenders Varun Kumar, and Surender Kumar, and midfielder Jaskaran Singh too had contracted the virus.
Mandeep, according to SAI, was asymptomatic. “He is being administered treatment by doctors along with five players who have tested positive,” SAI said in a statement, adding that the 25-year-old was among the 20 players who had undergone a RT-PCR test while entering the facility last week.
Mandeep was shifted to SS Sparsh multispeciality hospital last night after it was found that his blood oxygen level was dropping below normal. As per latest reports, his condition is currently stable.
The national team players were given a month-long break from training, which is scheduled to resume later this month after the 14-day quarantine period is over. It is learnt that all the players and coaching staff, who have returned to the centre last week after spending the month at their respective homes, will have to take another Covid-19 test after their quarantine is over.
Apart from men’s team chief coach Graham Reid, all other players and coaches of the men and women’s team had gone home during the break. Once the players who returned and coaches test negative, they will be allowed to resume camp as per the Standard Operating Procedure laid down by SAI and Hockey India. The training is likely to be held while maintaining social distancing, to start with. Gradual relaxations will be allowed at a later stage.
Asian CT set to be postponed
But even though they will spend the next few months at the campus training, it is likely there will be no international assignment for both teams. The men’s Asian Champions Trophy, which is to be held from November 17 to 27 in Dhaka, is set to get postponed, according to Asian Hockey Federation chief executive Tayyab Ikram.
Ikram said the rising number of cases in the subcontinent and the travel restrictions have made it ‘very difficult’ for them to hold the tournament as scheduled. The women’s Asian Champions Trophy, which was to be held in the South Korean city of Donghae from June 14 to 21, has already been pushed forward indefinitely.
“We are in touch with all participating teams and monitoring the situation very closely. The government rules and regulations are making it very difficult to go for a certain date. There is a big chance we have to postpone a little bit,” Ikram told The Indian Express from Lahore. He added that the postponed tournament will be held in Dhaka.
The fate of the Junior Asia Cup, a qualifying event for next year’s Junior World Cup, is also undecided. The men’s event was to be held in Dhaka in June, while the women’s tournament was scheduled for April in Kakamigahara, Japan.
With the postponement of the Asian Champions Trophy now imminent, the next scheduled international competition for the men’s team is in April 2021 when they resume their FIH Pro League commitments. The tournament was suspended mid-way this year due to the pandemic but is set to resume in Europe next month. India will rejoin the nine-team competition only in April.
The women’s team, which isn’t a part of the Pro League, does not have a fixed schedule. Although it is learnt that both teams will be playing in invitational tournaments and test matches early next year.
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