Hockey returns today with Club Cup
Arch-rivals Abahani and Mohammedan will take the field today as club hockey returns to the country following a three-year hiatus through the SIBL Club Cup Hockey Tournament.
Abahani will take on Police SC in the second match of the day after Mohammedan square off against Ajax SC at the Maulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in the opening match of the eight-team tournament.
Abahani, the defending champions boasting nine national team players, are one of the contenders for the title. The club's advisory coach Mahbub Harun expressed his optimism about retaining the title.
"Abahani are defending champions and we are confident about retaining the title," Harun told The Daily Star yesterday. "Even though the preparation time was very short, we have good players in the squad. We respect all our oppositions equally."
Abahani's arch-rivals Mohammedan, who skipped the Club Cup last time around but clinched the Premier League, are also confident about their chances.
"We have trained for around two weeks. We have a few senior national team players including (Rasel Mahmud) Jimmy. We have formed a strong squad and will definitely go for the title," Mohammedan coach Moududur Rahman Shuvo told The Daily Star.
Shadharan Bima, Dilkusha, Victoria and Wari – the four other teams that are part of the 12-team Premier League, are skipping this season-opening tournament due to a lack of preparation and budget constraint.
Replying to a query regarding this during a pre-tournament press conference yesterday, BHF's acting general secretary Mohammad Yousuf said, "There is no binding requirement for any club to participate in club cup. This is a preparatory tournament for the league, so I guess those four teams may have felt they don't need preparation."
The tournament is also unlikely to see participation of foreign players or foreign umpires, organisers hinted, as visa issues of the foreigners are yet to be completed.
The participating eight teams, split into two groups, will play against each of their group opponents from where the top four teams will play in the semifinals on October 14 and the winners of the semifinals will square off in the final on October 16.
The seven-lac-taka tournament will offer a prize money worth Tk 150,000 with champion team getting Tk 100,000 and runners-up team pocketing Tk 50,000.
The press conference was attended, among others, by SIBL's senior vice-president Mohammad Maniruzzaman and league committee chairman, Abdul Ahad, DC of Motijheel Police.