North and South Korea are planning to field a unified hockey team in future international tournaments, continuing the sustained efforts to bring peace between the neighbours through sports. The proposal to have a combined team came from South Korea during a meeting between the representatives of the two countries on the sidelines of the 46th International Hockey Federation (FIH) Congress here.
Asian Hockey Federation CEO Tayyab Ikram, who played an instrumental role in the meeting, announced the development but said both the countries will have to get green signal from their governments before the proposal sees the light of the day. “We have just finished a very important meeting between South Korea and North Korea and I am glad to announce that both the countries have agreed to co-operate and develop hockey. Both the countries want to use hockey to bring peace between them,” Ikram told a select group of Indian journalists. “One of the proposals mooted was to have a combined team in future which will play in Asian Hockey Federation and FIH events.”
Athletes from North and South Korea marched under a unified flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and took part in the ice hockey competition. The two Koreas are also planning to compete as a unified team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and are bidding to co-host the 2032 Summer Games.
Ikram said if passed by their respective governments, it will be a historic development for the hockey fraternity. “Both the countries are also willing to conduct exchange programmes. Moving forward both the countries will get in touch with their foreign offices in order to formalise these proposals. AHF and FIH will play the role of a mediator,” the AHF CEO said. “These are preliminary discussions and we will formalise them in coming weeks.”
Ikram said AHF wants both the countries to field a unified team in the Hockey Series Finals to be held in India from June 6 to 16 next year. “At this moment, it is not clear when they can have a combined team but our suggestion is to field a unified team during next year’s Hockey Series Finals,” he said.