Dhaka (Bangladesh): It was in 1985 when Bangladesh last hosted the prestigious Asia Cup which saw Pakistan lift the title with India settling as runners-up. That the coveted Hero Asia Cup 2017 this year is being hosted in the capital city of Dhaka has stoked great enthusiasm not just among hockey buffs of the country but also the national team. “The prestigious event returns to Bangladesh after 32 years and I believe this will initiate a new era for hockey in the country. Hero Asia Cup 2017 is a big platform and the matches being played under floodlights, the live telecast and great level of hockey definitely opens a new horizon for the sport,” expressed Raihan Mahamud, Chief Coach of Bangladesh men’s team.
The Hero Asia Cup 2017 scheduled to begin on October 11 at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium, Dhaka will see eight teams vie for top honors with Bangladesh grouped along with India, Pakistan and Japan in Pool A while Malaysia, Oman, Korea and China form Pool B.
Though the hosts are grouped in a tough Pool that features Asia No.1 India and No.2 Pakistan, coach Mahamud believes his team will have to prove their competence to advance in the tournament. “Pitted against the 1st, 2nd and 5th ranked teams of Asia in Pool A, Bangladesh does not have many targets in the field, but playing a fighting brand of hockey and proving our competency to surge ahead will be our primary goals. The passionate fans for sure will be the morale boosters in the crunch times and our preparations have been strong with focus on improving in all departments,” stated Mahamud.
In their previous international outing, Bangladesh finished fifth at the World Hockey League Round 2. Mahamud minced no words in expressing his dismay at the team’s performance but he is hopeful the Hero Asia Cup 2017 will set new standards for Bangladesh hockey. “We lost against Oman finishing fifth in the eight-team event. The performance was average and not up to the mark. But at the Hero Asia Cup 2017 we have nothing to lose but earn and learn a lot. We are not afraid of the other teams rather we are focused upon what we have which is to put up a good show,” he said.
With the comfort of playing on home ground and fans rallying for their home team, Bangladesh will certainly look to soak up the support and have the potential to emerge out of their ‘underdogs’ image. “The most important thing is to put a good show on the turf. Fans play a role in motivating the players but a good performance is most important,” Mahamud said further adding that Korea and India are his picks for potential title winners. “Malaysia too may stand strong in their path to the title,” he concluded.