Hockey on the beach? Surely, you must be joking.
The beaches of Goa in the month of November will be witness to a new variant of hockey when teams from across the world will converge for the International Beach Hockey Cup starting November 7.
The tournament will serve two purposes – as an advertisement for the game of beach hockey ahead of the first ever Beach Hockey World Cup to be held next year in the Netherlands, and as a charity event whose proceeds will go towards the Hockey Village India project currently running in Dausa village in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan.
What is beach hockey you might ask?
The sport of beach hockey may be an unknown quantity in this part of the world, but it has been wowing audiences for just under a decade now. It is one of the most spectacular forms of hockey to be played.
Two teams of four players each generally take to the sands, where an inflatable pitch, around 20 x 30 meters is laid out for the players. The ball is not like the regular ball used in field hockey. Instead a small leather ball, around 20 cm in diameter, is used. Another difference from regular field hockey is that the goal posts are much larger in dimensions.
The playing area being much smaller than a hockey field, the game is very intense and for much of the time the ball is played in the air. Also due to the small surface area, a goal can be scored from anywhere, from any distance. So, spectators can get to see shots flying in at goal from various parts of the sandy playing area.
Origins and concept
Former Dutch player Floris-Jan Bovelander, a pretty accomplished player in his time for the Dutch team, is the founding father of the game of beach hockey. He will be in the country during the event to monitor the proceedings.
The event in Goa is being jointly organised by Beach Hockey International and Hockey Village India. Andrea Thumshirn, a former hockey player for Germany and founder of Hockey Village India, joined hands with Jan Bovelander to come up with this concept of the beach hockey tournament in Goa. She wants to show that hockey can be played on any surface – grass, astro turf, clay, sand, ice, etc – and thus wants to create awareness about the game.
They also want to change the image that the game has in India and try and build popularity.
They also share a vision of developing an Indian beach hockey team before the World Cup in 2014. No other Asian country currently plays the sport, so if India were to send a team out to the World Cup, it would be the first Asian nation to do so.
Goa provides an ideal destination for the event with its sunny beaches and is a location that promotes fun and excitement and was hence a natural choice for the venue.
The event also provides an opportunity for local kids to meet local and international coaches who will get them acquainted with the game of hockey. Apart from the main event itself there are plenty of fun games, mini-hockey matches and a chance to meet Jan Bovelander face-to-face that are added attractions at the event. Plenty of Goan schools will also form a part of this event.
Who will be playing?
Men and women teams from European countries where the game of beach hockey is already popular have been invited to take part in the event. This would majorly feature teams from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium where the sport is extremely popular.
From the Indian side, there will be three women’s teams and 14 men’s teams.
The participation fees paid by the foreign participants will all go towards Hockey Village India at the end of the tournament.
Hockey Village India will be fielding a men’s and women’s team.
Schedule and order of play
The tournament will take place over three days, between November 8 and November 10. There will be a function to mark the opening ceremony of the event on the evening of November 7.
The first two days will see each team playing against every other team in a round-robin format to decide who goes through to the final. The final will be played on Day 3 of the event.
Every participating player will receive a medal and the teams finishing in the top three will receive a trophy for their efforts. There is also a special cash prize for the winning team.
Rules and regulations for the tournament
The following are the rules of the tournament:
• Every team plays with 4 outfield players and 1 goalkeeper. The goalkeeper has to wear a different coloured shirt to be separated from the outfield players. Players can be substituted at any time of the game.
• The field is 20 meters (width) x 30 meters (length) in dimension.
• The goals are 4 meters wide (inside the posts) and 2 meters high.
• Goals can be scored from any position on the field.
• The ball is a handball-like leather-ball.
• One referee is positioned at the sideline in the middle of the field on a high chair.
• If the ball unintentionally touches the body of a player, the game will be allowed to continue. If the ball is played with any part of the body intentionally there will be a free hit for the other team.
• The goalkeeper can defend the ball with any part of the body.
• The game can be played with any custom hockey stick (indoor, outdoor, special beach hockey stick; wood or composite). The ball has to be played with the flat side of the stick– just like normal hockey.
• The ball can be played above the shoulder, as long as no other player is in danger through this. It is not allowed to drag the stick over the head of the opponent.
• A player is not allowed to keep the ball more than 4 seconds in the air (taking it out of the sand and balancing or bouncing it on the stick). Within 4 seconds the ball has to be passed on or dropped to the ground again.
• Free hits can be shot at the goal from any part of the field. The opponent has to keep a 4 meter distance from the hit taker.
• In front of every goal there is an 8 meter zone that is marked through tags on the side of the field. If an unintentional “normal” foul has been made within this zone, the free hit has to be taken back on that 8 meter line. Intentional fouls within this zone or unfair off-the-ball-incidents anywhere on the field will lead to a penalty from this 8 meter line.
• The kick-off of the game can be taken in either direction of the field. The distance of the opponents has to be 4 meters here as well.
• For intentional rough fouls the referee can show a yellow card which causes a 2 minute suspension for the player and the team has to play with one player less.
• Players are allowed to wear shoes and shin guards. The teams should agree though to every player wearing shoes or no player at all, to avoid foot-injuries.
• A match is played for two periods of 15 minutes each.
• If there is a tie in the playoffs there will be two more periods of three minutes each in overtime where the golden goal rule will be employed. If no goal is scored in overtime there will be a penalty shoot-out with 3 players from each team getting a chance to shoot. In case of a tie there will be a sudden death penalty shoot-out until one team misses the goal.