Bengaluru: Manpreet Singh, the captain of the Indian men's hockey team on Wednesday expressed his squad's excitement following the announcement of the schedule for the second edition of FIH Pro League.
"We are really excited to begin our first FIH (International Hockey Federation) Pro League campaign on home soil in January. The league provides a great opportunity to play against top teams in the world and we expect all the matches to be challenging," Singh said at the on-going national coaching camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru.
"I am sure playing continuous top-level matches will be beneficial in the all-important Olympic year and this could also mean good match exposure for all players in the core group," he added. India will play a total of eight home games with six matches in January and February and two matches in May.
India's opening match will be on its home soil against the Netherlands on January 18 next year. The two matches on January 18 and 19 against the Dutch team will be followed by matches against the world champions Belgium on February 8 and 9.
The home matches will see India play against Australia on February 22 and 23. The Indian team will then leave for away games in Germany as well as the UK on April 25 and 26, and on May 2 and 3 respectively.
India will return to play on home soil on May 23 and 24 against New Zealand following which the team will leave for Argentina to play matches on June 5 and 6. The squad will play the last leg of the Pro League round-robin matches in Spain on June 13 and 14.
Singh believes that this will provide ample opportunity for Indian fans to catch their favourite players in action against the best hockey-playing nations in the world.
"With India playing the home leg against top teams like the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia, I am sure hockey fans in India will get to watch the very best of hockey. India has always enjoyed playing these teams on home soil and what better way to start our campaign than here at home," the Indian captain stated.
"We hope the matches will recreate an electrifying atmosphere similar to the World Cup in Bhubaneswar and the visiting teams too can enjoy playing here," Singh added.
Meanwhile, Indian men's team chief coach Graham Reid emphasised on the importance of regular competition against top teams ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
"We are very excited about the prospects of playing in the Pro League next year. Having experienced it first-hand, I know how important it is to have regular competition. To play against the best teams in the world and test the depth of this talented young squad will be ideal preparation for the Tokyo Olympics should we qualify in November," Reid said.