We need to empower them, help them be not only hockey athletes but also strong individuals for society, educate them about their rights and how best they can use those, support them in their transition from hockey to the professional world, etc. In some countries, the only voice is the coach. This has to change, in order to provide a balance.

How can bigger NAs support less privileged ones?

That is my dream, in fact! It is happening a bit, but not that much … We need to tell the bigger NAs that this is also part of their social responsibility. We started some twinning projects in the past but it was no longer the focus in recent years and it’s now again on my agenda. For example, I was recently in Australia and Hockey Australia told me that they felt global hockey needs a stronger Pakistan. Following that, I had a really good meeting with Australia’s High Commissioner in Pakistan.

The geographical parameter can play a role. For example, Australia and New Zealand supporting the Pacific Islands, some bigger NAs in Asia or Europe helping smaller ones on their continent by bringing athletes, coaches, umpires in their leagues, etc.

So, this plan is in the pipeline, and a well-placed item of our Empowerment and Engagement strategy!

Do you think Hockey5s can be a game-changer for the growth of our sport?

I believe so! And I think we proved that with the first ever FIH Hockey5s World Cup in Oman in January. It never happens in hockey that you have 32 national teams, very diverse, in just one city, with six of them playing their first-ever FIH Hockey World Cup! That was of course a huge motivation for the smaller nations to be able to play against the likes of India or the Netherlands!

Also, upon my initiative and as a sign of encouragement, teams not qualifying for the quarter finals still had a chance to compete for a trophy, namely the “Challenger Trophy”. That had a huge meaning, especially for emerging nations.

Bridging the performance gap, opening up more accessibility for younger generations and developing nations, providing them with this kind of opportunities, all of that is already a game-changer.

FIH events are being brought to new territories like Oman, Poland or Croatia. Does this also belong to the strategy?

Absolutely! This is part of empowerment. And was never done by FIH before, although this clearly belongs to our primary mission to develop hockey in every corner of the world!

Giving these NAs the experience to host professionally our top events and athletes – the feedback about the Olympic Qualifiers in Muscat was fantastic! – means that they can learn a lot. So, it’s a huge legacy!