New Delhi: The international hockey federation (FIH), on Thursday, made drastic changes in the structure of the game. The game will no longer be of two halves of 35 minutes each. Instead, it will be a 60-minute affair of four halves each. The new rules will be implemented from the Asian Games onwards.
Under the new model, which was tried partially in the Hockey India League (HIL) and Euro Hockey League, there would be a break after every 15 minutes. To prevent wastage of time, the body will also introduce 40-second timeouts, following the award of a penalty corner and the scoring of a goal.
After the first and third quarters, each team will have a two-minute break, while the existing 10-minute half time will remain unchanged.
While the FIH said the changes would improve the flow and intensity of the game, some former India players said it was another attempt to commercialise the sport.
“Nothing is going to improve. The new changes could only fill up the coffers of the FIH,” said Ashok Kumar, the man who scored India’s winning goal in the 1975 World Cup final. “The breaks will help the official broadcasters to show more advertisements,” he said.
The Olympian said he was frustrated with such frequent rule changes. “Perhaps, no other Olympic sport has seen so many rule changes in such a short time. I see no reason why they should reduce the game’s time by 10 minutes.”
A top coach, who did not want to be named, felt the rule could put the Indian players in disadvantage. “The Indians and Koreans rely more on speed, while power is the strength of the Europeans. A break in every 15 minutes would break the rhythm of the Indian players,” he said.
But then, not everyone in the hockey fraternity holds similar opinion. In fact, former India captains Ajitpal Singh and Zafar Iqbal welcomed the FIH move, saying the new rules would be good for the game.
“A couple of years ago, I met the FIH president and gave him a similar proposal. I am happy they have changed the rules,” said Zafar.
Ajitpal feels the breaks will give the coaches to formulate strategies. “Hockey has become a very fast game because of the astro-turf. A break after every 15 minutes would help the players to recover. It would also give coaches the opportunity to talk to the players,” said Ajitpal.
India captain Sardar Singh was not ready to be dragged into a conversation over the advantages and disadvantages of the new rules. “We have already played under these rules in the HIL.
As far as international matches are concerned, we will win if we play well. The rules can never be any hindrance,” he said.