Lausanne: India and Spain will play in the upcoming women's Hockey Pro League as replacement teams only for this season after pull-outs by Australia and New Zealand, the international Hockey Federation (FIH) said on Friday. The third season of the women's FIH Hockey Pro League begins on October 13 with Olympic and world champions the Netherlands taking on Belgium.
"FIH is glad to announce that the women's national teams of India and Spain will join the FIH Hockey Pro League for Season 3," the International Hockey Federation said in a statement.
"Both teams will replace (for this season only) Australia and New Zealand ... However, Australia and New Zealand will join Pro League again for Season 4," it said.
Last month, Australia and New Zealand pulled out of the league as well as from the upcoming FIH Hockey Junior World Cups and the FIH Hockey Indoor World Cup due to COVID-related international travel restrictions put in place by their own respective governments.
The FIH said whenever possible, the women's squads of India and Spain will play on the same dates and venues as their men counterparts, who are already part of FIH's global home-and-away league, which involves most of the best nations in world hockey.
Both India and Spain had performed brilliantly at the recent Tokyo Olympics. India reached their maiden semifinals while Spain only narrowly missed the last four after losing to Great Britain in a shoot-out.
FIH CEO Thierry Weil said, "It's wonderful to welcome such great teams as India and Spain for the next edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League, especially after their brilliant performance in Tokyo."
"This is great for the athletes and great for the fans! On behalf of FIH, I'd like to extend our sincerest thanks to Hockey India and the Royal Spanish Hockey Federation for having accepted our invitation."
Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam said the country's participation in the forthcoming FIH Hockey Pro League will not only give the players an opportunity to compete against the best in the world but will also help increase the fanbase for the team.
"With the Asian Games being held in 2022, getting to play strong teams of the world earlier in the year will certainly be a great platform for our teams to get right exposure before the all-important Asian Games which is also an Olympic Qualification event," he said.
Royal Spanish Hockey Federation President Santiago Deo said: "The participation of the women's team in the FIH Hockey Pro League will enable our team to play against the best teams in the world. This will also make them better prepare for the FIH Hockey Women's World Cup Spain and Netherlands 2022."