One of the oldest and most global sports in the world, versions of field hockey were played in Iran as far back as 2000BC, and now we’re gearing up to watch the very same action at Tokyo 2020.
The popular version of the game in British public schools spread to India and Pakistan before blasting worldwide, proven by the fact that the world rankings contain at least one team from every continent in the top 20.
RadioTimes.com brings you up to speed with everything you need to know about field hockey at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021.
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When is field hockey at the Olympics?
The field hockey tournament runs from Saturday 24th July until Friday 6th August.
The men’s medal final takes place on 5th August, with the women’s gold medal match rounding off the contests on 6th August.
Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.
Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.
Which countries play field hockey?
There will be a men’s and a women’s tournament at the Olympics, each with teams from 12 countries. The men’s competition was historically dominated by India and the Netherlands, with 10 gold medals between them.
The current defending champions are Argentina, who are ranked 3rd in the world behind Australia and the Netherlands. These top contenders will be joined in the competition by Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain and South Africa.
In the women’s competition, Team GB will be hoping to defend the gold medal they won in Rio, although they’ll face strong competition from the Netherlands, who are currently ranked No.1 in the world, as they have been every year since 2012. Other teams in the women’s tournament will include Germany, India, Ireland, South Africa, Argentina, China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Spain.
Read more: How to watch Olympics 2020 Opening Ceremony
What are the rules for field hockey?
Teams of 11 play on a 91m x 54m pitch and attempt to score goals by shooting into the net from inside the opposition’s shooting circle, a 16-metre semi-circle in front of their goal.
Outfield players can only touch the ball with their sticks, while the goalkeeper can also block shots with their hands and feet.
Games are played over four 15-minute quarters and there will be a group stage followed by a knockout phase.
There’s no offside rule in field hockey, which keeps the action fast and means that the threat to the goal can shift in unexpected directions.
The other element that keeps the game moving at frantic pace is the move from grass to artificial pitches that have been watered to allow smooth passage for the ball.
This has increased the speed of the game, with the ball occasionally reaching 200kph, and it also looks impressive when some shots send up an explosion of mist!
Which Team GB athletes will compete in Olympic field hockey?
Team GB’s women’s squad will include six members of the team that won gold in 2016, including goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, and Laura Unsworth making her third Olympic appearance.
Newcomers include Izzy Petter and Fiona Crackles, the youngest members of the squad at 21.
The men’s squad will be led by Adam Dixon who, along with David Ames, Ian Sloane and Sam Ward, will be making his second appearance at the Olympics.
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