BIG-TIME hockey is back in Qatar after a gap of two years as the Seventh Indoor Asia Cup for men and women started at the Aspire Dome last Monday.
The five-a-side competition comprises eight teams in the men’s category and six in women’s. The format is ideal for the hosts after outdoor events, including the Qatar League, came to a halt following the demolition of Al Rayyan Stadium in 2014 for renovation.
The 2015 Arab Nations Cup was the last international tournament held in Qatar, but the indoor league, which started at the German International School last year, has helped the players stay in touch with the game.
“The demolition of Rayyan Stadium was a big setback for the clubs and players. The closure of outdoor activities had hit us very badly. Some of us played six-a-side game in the open spaces inside a villa at Al Wakrah. That was the best to remain connected with the sport,” said a player.
The indoor concept has given a ray of hope to the players, with the Qatar Rugby, Hockey and Cricket Federation (QRHCF) working hard to keep alive the sport in the country.
QRHCF President Yousef Jeham Al Kuwari exuded confidence of having an outdoor field in future, but admitted nothing was concrete now.
“We’ll try to have at least one outdoor pitch, so we can improve activities. We’ve a plan, but first we want to take up the matter with the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC),” Al Kuwari told Doha Stadium Plus.
With the QOC’s support and co-operation of the Aspire Zone as well as several schools, the QRHCF has done an impressive job to keep alive the sport through indoor activities.
“We don’t have any outdoor facilities. A synthetic turf is important, but we can’t afford to waste our time. I thank the federation for starting an indoor league last year,” said Qatar’s coach and Technical Director Maggid Abu Taleb.
Savio Nayak, who represents Wanderers and is one of the mainstays of Qatar national team, said, “It’s always a great experience to play indoor hockey which has become popular in the country.”