The participation of Abahani, Mohammedan SC, Usha KC, Dhaka Mariner Youngs Club and all the other established clubs helped produce a healthy and competitive Club Cup after 45 months. Now those clubs are all lining up for another battle in the Green Delta Insurance Premier Hockey League, which gets underway today at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium.
Joint champions Abahani, who regained the club cup title three days ago, will face promoted Railway in the opening match of the league.
Returning to top flight hockey after nearly four years, Mohammedan SC and Mariner Youngs formed strong squads yet they failed to make it to the final of the club cup where Abahani eventually prevailed by thrashing Usha. Now the title race for the premier league, which is being held after a gap of two-and-a-half years, will likely be a battle between those four teams.
However, Sonali Bank and Bangladesh SC may cause some worries to the title contenders as those two clubs are also set to field foreign players like the giant ones.
“It is good news for all hockey lovers that the premier league will start tomorrow [Thursday] with the participation of all the clubs. We saw a wonderful competition in the club cup tournament which turned into a multi-player tournament due to the participation of foreign players from many countries; now we are expecting a competitive league,” said Bangladesh Hockey Federation's general secretary Abdus Sadeque at a press conference yesterday.
However the eligibility of five foreign players for each side in a match has drawn disapproval from different quarters and many believe Bangladesh hockey would go backwards due to this move. The BHF general secretary however said that they had nothing to do as the clubs took this decision.
“There is a shortage of hockey players and a lack of quality players which is why we could not overrule the decision of the league committee, but we are taking initiatives to increase the number of local players with different initiatives,” said Sadeque.
League committee secretary Moinuzzaman Pila informed that the 12 participating clubs would initially play in round-robin league format and top six teams will advance to the super league stage to decide the title while the bottom team of the first-phase would be relegated.
He also informed that the umpires from Oman, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Bangladesh will conduct the league phase by phase.