Singapore to host Hockey Series Open next month

Singapore will host the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) Hockey Series Open for both men and women at the Sengkang Stadium from June 23 to July 1.

The tourney replaces the FIH's World League, and acts as the first stage of qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Hockey Series Open will be played in a round-robin format.

Both the men and women's categories will feature six teams each, with the top two women's teams and the men's champions qualifying for the Hockey Series Finals next year - the second stage of Olympic qualification.

There is one further tournament to play - the FIH Olympic Qualification Event - before teams can book their spots for Tokyo.

Teams can also qualify by winning their continental championships - for Asia, it is the Asian Hockey Champions Trophy.

Entry to the Hockey Series Open is free, and Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) president Mathavan Devadas is hopeful fans will show up and cheer on the Republic's teams to cross the first hurdle on the road to Tokyo.

"Our men are the top-ranked team among the six that are coming here," he told The Straits Times.

"We are confident that on our home ground, they will be able to play to the best of their capabilities."

The men's team, who are ranked 40th in the world, will face Hong Kong (45th), Thailand (47th), Chinese Taipei (52nd), Myanmar (89th) and the unranked Indonesia.

But coach Rajan Krishnan's men will have to raise their game, after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Myanmar at last year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

They narrowly beat Thailand 3-2 in the group stage and 2-1 in the bronze medal play-off.

The women's team, ranked 35th in the world, will take on regional giants Malaysia (22nd), Thailand (28th), Kazakhstan (34th), Hong Kong (43rd) and Indonesia (65th).

Mathavan is also upbeat about the women's chances, despite the fact that they are the fourth seeds.

"Only the top two women's teams will qualify, but we have seen our women take on these teams in the past, and they were competitive," he said.

"We hope the women can produce the goods at the tournament."

The Hockey Series Open is part of the FIH's efforts to change the landscape of international hockey.

It has launched the Hockey Pro League which starts next year and will feature nine of the world's top men and women's countries, playing each other in a home-and-away league format between January and June.

The top Pro League teams will face off with the winners of the Hockey Series Finals for spots at the Tokyo Olympics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore to host Hockey Series Open next month'. Print Edition | Subscribe