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Another step towards Euro-Revolution! (3/10/2006)
--K. Arumugam
January 2004. Indian women add Asia Cup to their kitty, already to the brim with glittering golds from Afro-Asian Games (December 2003) and Commonwealth Wealth Games (July 2002).

March 2004: Reigning champions of above three prestigious competitions, India, is not even among the 10 teams for the Auckland Olympic Qualifier where five slots for the Athens Olympics was up for grab. Why?

FIH’s brainwave of World Ranking System does not consider Afro-Asian Games or Commonwealth Games -- or for that matter any invitational tournaments and Test Series -- for the purpose of ranking. FIH will consider only its own (Olympics, World Cup, Champions Trophy and qualifiers thereto) tournaments and Continental Federation events mostly once-in-four-years variety. No matter the FIH events and Continental events hardly make up even one-third of international matches being held on the world stage in any given year. No matter the top FIH dignitaries line up and grace during these competitions, approve fixtures and post officials.

So what’s the impact of such a dubious system? Devastating to say the least. Now, for an instance, look at the composition of Auckland Olympic Qualifier (2004). Six Europeans nations (Spain, Germany, Great Britain, though it lost its legal status due to dissolution of EHA, Ireland, Ukraine, Russia) were among the ten teams who vied for five Olympic slots! Four of them were in one Pool!!

And what happened? Four European teams finished at the bottom, conceding bulk of goals, which proved the fact that they were undeservedly there.

Auckland Qualifier is an eye opener how erroneous the FIH Ranking System is and how does it benefit one part of the world at the cost of the other. Having said this, I would stress that one should not find fault with the concept of ranking hockey nations, and its imperatives in marketing and improving the profile of hockey at large.

But considering the not-so-foolproof ranking system as a holy cow (sacrosanct) for deciding the composition of major tournaments is fundamentally wrong. Such innovations favour Europe teams every time -- overtly or covertly.

In the past one has to scratch one’s head to find out the beneficiaries of any FIH’s move. That is made simple now. FIH’s press release on the matter of Olympic Qualification for 2008 Beijing itself says you so -- and correctly too.

The pros and cons of the new qualification system for the 2008 Beijing Olympics is discussed in a separate article in the same website, but the bottom line is, don’t give much credence to the FIH World Ranking System as it exists in its present form. It helps only the smarter ones. Now that the European Nations Cup has been made biannual, it is going to garner as many points as that of Asian Games, All African Games, Pan-American Games, where hockey is held among many other disciplines and significantly every four years. Timing of these tournaments too assumes significance. Had not the Indian Women Hockey Federation postponed the 2003 Asia Cup which was originally to be held in December 2003 to January 2004, Indian girls would have been in the Auckland field.

If, for an instance, a sponsor comes forward to host the Asia Cup annually -- a possibility in the light of television interest in Asia -- will the FIH award as much points as it had been awarding to Asia Cup so far?

FIH’s argues the three Qualification tournaments of each six teams will give chance to 18 teams to aim for the Olympics, instead of 12 as in the past. If enlarging the participation is the sole objective whyd did then the the field of Septmeber world cup reduced to 12 instead of 16 as was the case in KL four years ago.

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