New Delhi [India], March 19 (ANI): The inaugural edition of Hockey India Junior Men and Junior Women Zonal Championships is set to begin on Sunday with the first matches of all four zones - North, South, East, and West - set to be played from March 19 to 26.
The Championships are part of Hockey India's Grassroots Development Programme, which aims to unearth young talent and improve the bench strength of the national teams. It is also the first intra-zonal hockey tournament in the U18 age-group category for men and women, as per a Hockey India press release.
Over 800 young aspiring hockey stars representing 23 Junior Men's teams and 23 Junior Women's teams will take part in the Championships in their respective zones which will feature 117 matches in total. The finals of each zone will be played on March 26.
The Junior Men and Junior Women Zonal Championships will be played in a league format, with three points at stake for each win, while one point will be awarded to each team in the event of a draw.
For North Zone Men's Category event - at the end of the league stage, the top two teams from each pool will qualify for the semis to compete against each other for a berth in the final.
For North Zone (Women), South, East & West Zone, at the end of the league stage, the top four teams from both junior men and junior women categories will qualify for the classification matches where the teams that finished third and fourth in the pool stage will lock horns with each other for the 3rd/ 4th position, while the first and second-ranked teams from the group stage will compete against each other in the final.
Hockey India has shortlisted four zone-wise venues that will be hosting the matches. For the North Zone, the matches will take place at Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, while in the South, the matches will be held at the Velumanickam Hockey Stadium in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.
The East Zone and the West Zone matches will be played at the Birsa College Compound in Khunti (Ranchi), Jharkhand, and the International Hockey Stadium in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh respectively.
Players selected from Each Zone will form a team each to participate in the 1st Hockey India Inter-Zone Championship 2023 along with two teams formed from the players selected from Hockey India Academy Championship 2023 and two teams to participate from Sports Authority of India.
Teams in the Inter-Zonal Championships will be coached by a coach's panel consisting of coaches who hold a minimum FIH Level 1 Coach Certificate. Moreover, to promote the identification of talented athletes, each zone will be equipped with selection committees that will consist of a minimum of three members.
"The Zonal Championships will provide young athletes with exposure to the same match conditions as the Hockey India National Championships. Shortlisted athletes identified in the Zonal Championships will be required to participate in the National Championships, giving them opportunities to further develop their hockey skills," Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey said.
List of participating teams from all four zones:
North Zone (Men) - Uttar Pradesh Hockey, Hockey Chandigarh, Hockey Haryana, Hockey Punjab, Delhi Hockey, Hockey Uttarakhand, Hockey Himachal
North Zone (Women) - Hockey Haryana, Uttar Pradesh Hockey, Hockey Chandigarh, Hockey Punjab, Delhi Hockey, Hockey Uttarakhand.
South Zone (Men) - Hockey Karnataka, Hockey Unit Of Tamil Nadu, Kerala Hockey, Hockey Andhra Pradesh, Le Puducherry Hockey, Telangana Hockey
South Zone (Women) - Hockey Karnataka, Hockey Andhra Pradesh, Hockey Unit Of Tamil Nadu, Telangana Hockey, Kerala Hockey, Le Puducherry Hockey.
East Zone (Men) - Hockey Association of Odisha, Hockey Jharkhand, Hockey Bihar, Assam Hockey, Hockey Bengal
East Zone (Women) - Hockey Jharkhand, Hockey Association of Odisha, Hockey Mizoram, Hockey Bengal, Assam Hockey, Hockey Bihar.
West Zone (Men) - Hockey Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh Hockey, Hockey Madhya Pradesh, Hockey Rajasthan, Hockey Gujarat
West Zone (Women) - Hockey Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh Hockey, Hockey Madhya Pradesh, Hockey Rajasthan, Hockey Gujarat. (ANI)