Two weeks ago, Bangladesh really put the word ‘world’ into the World League when it moved onto Round 2 of the newest international hockey competition. The 40th-placed team in the FIH World Ranking is the lowest-ranked team to make it through to the second round to date and incredibly enough had not played in an official international event for more than a decade before their triumph in Singapore.
FIH.ch took the opportunity to sit down with Bangladesh Hockey Federation General Secretary Khaja Rahmatullah to talk about how hockey is perceived in the Asian nation and where the team hopes to go after their World League triumph.
Congratulations on the win in Singapore, what does it mean to your national team program to be moving onto Round 2 of the World League?
It means a lot not only for the players on our national team, but also for the development of hockey in all of Bangladesh. Now we will play in a high-profile event and will have a chance to train together as a team for an extended period of time. These are all positive things for hockey in Bangladesh.
Q: For those that may not know a lot about hockey in Bangladesh, can you describe the structure?
Bangladesh has around 3,000 hockey players all over the country. There are ten Premier Division clubs, ten First Division clubs and ten Second Division clubs affiliated with the Bangladesh Hockey Federation. There are a total of 25 District Sports associations affiliated with the Bangladesh Hockey Federation. All district teams have been participate regularly in a National Championship, National Junior Championship and School tournaments.
There is also a Premier Division League, First Division League and Office League every year. Moreover we organized a Club Cup Tournament, Shahid Smrity Tournament, Independence Day Tournament, Victory Day Tournament, National School Hockey, National Youth Hockey, National Hockey, Tribal Hockey, Development Cup Hockey etc.
As you can see from all of these events, even though we are a smaller hockey nation, there is a great interest in the game and a desire from our players to be active.
Q: The World League was Bangladesh’s first appearance in an FIH International event for decades, how did you prepare as a team?
Our Premier Division Hockey League was only finished on August 6th, which gave us only 20 days to prepare for the World League. This was not a lot of time, but we focused on making the most of the training we had as a group and in the end, it proved to be enough for us to win in Singapore.
Q: What will you do to prepare for Round 2 event? Are you players excited that they may have the chance to play against teams that were at the Olympics and ranked in the Top 20?
We know that we have to do a lot to prepare for the second round of the World League as the teams playing in the next tier will be of an entirely new caliber. To prepare we are organizing a three-month training camp for our National Team. Our players are very excited to be going against the teams in Round 2 as this is something they have never experienced as a group before.
Q: What were your initial thoughts when you heard about the World League – did you see it as a good opportunity for hockey in Bangladesh?
I think the World League is an excellent opportunity for Bangladesh hockey. We have the opportunity to gain World Ranking points and to get some international games played. And now that we’re onto the second round, the experience that we will have playing against the next tier of nations is extremely valuable for us.
Q: What is the number one thing that you would like to see happen in Bangladesh to help hockey grow?
Hockey is an expensive game. We are trying very hard to develop the game in Bangladesh, but it’s not always so easy. If we get a good coach for a long-term that could be a major turning point for our national tem program. In the short term, the FIH and IOC have given us coaching and umpiring refresher courses, which has helped us a lot.
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