At this moment in time, the Moulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh is hosting the men’s Hero Asia Cup 2017, a qualifying event for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, Bhubaneswar 2018. The Bangladesh Hockey Federation hopes that this hockey showcase will inspire a new generation of talented sports stars to pick up their sticks.
The Hero Asia Cup is taking place from 11-22 October and will see the top men's Asian teams competing for qualification status plus the continental title.
It is a big deal to be hosting this event as Sadeque Abdus, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) knows all too well.
"We last hosted the Asia Cup in 1985, so there is a huge amount of excitement among hockey supporters in Bangladesh and the surrounding Asian nations at this event being played in Dhaka again," says Abdus. "Back then, 50,000 spectators watched the final, it was a fantastic occasion."
If you go back even further in the 20th century, to a pre-partition India, then the region that is Bangladesh was a hotbed of hockey talent. This, says Abdus, has sadly not been the case for the past few decades as cricket has cemented its place as the number one sport. But hockey is fighting back.
"We cannot hope to compete with cricket at the moment,’ says Abdus, "the top players are all paid very well to play cricket and our national players are still amateur."
That said, the BHF has been instrumental in helping top players find jobs so that they can play hockey, train and work for employers sympathetic to the demands of elite sport. It is same within the Federation. Abdus says none of the Committee or Board are paid to serve their sport, but with most of the Board former international players, they have a deep passion for the game and are determined to raise its profile.
"We last hosted the Asia Cup in 1985...Back then, 50,000 spectators watched the final, it was a fantastic occasion."
Sadeque Abdus, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Hockey Federation
Hosting international events is one way that the sport has been able to get itself into the limelight. "Every day we are getting stories into the media about the Asia Cup," says Abdus. "We have had members of the national team visiting schools; members of the 1985 team have been giving talks and the national jersey was recently revealed at a media event."
Bangladesh has already proven itself a good host to international teams. In March of this year, the BHF hosted one of the Hockey World League Round Two events, with teams from Malaysia, Ghana, Fiji and Oman among those who enjoyed Bangladesh hospitality.
"We have definitely learned a lot along the way," says Abdus, chuckling as he recalls a number of pre-tournament panics when things such as the electronic scoreboard didn’t appear until the last minute. The installation of floodlights into the National Stadium just one week before the start of the Hero Asia Cup has added a new dimension to Bangladesh’s hockey offering. While there are just two artificial turfs in the country at the moment, the light upgrade – the result of partnership work between FIH, BHF and the Bangladesh Government – is a sign that the government is prepared to invest in the sport.
There are additional ambitious plans to have a number of new pitches laid in the next few years. Abdus has a huge drive and passion for the sport that he graced, first as an international and then as an administrator, and through his work and that of his fellow BHF members, this former hockey hotbed is slowly re-heating.
This is clear example of a National Association embracing FIH's 10-year aimed at making hockey a global game that inspires the next generation. With a Big Goal focused on increasing the degree of professionalism in the sport, the BHF are making considerable progress in this area with such development helping grow the sport in their country.
For more information about hockey in Bangladesh, visit the .
Further information about hockey in Asia can be found on the .