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The Pakistan junior men’s hockey team arrived in Bhubaneswar on Saturday to play in the upcoming FIH Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup to be held at the Kalinga Stadium from November 24 to December 5. Pakistan are clubbed in Pool D along with Germany, Egypt and Argentina. (More Hockey News)

The arrival of the Pakistan junior hockey team in India comes days after New Delhi decided to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib corridor. Earlier, Aftab Hasan Khan, the Charge d’ Affaires at the high commission extended a warm welcome to the hockey team, it said in a statement.

It said a senior diplomat of the high commission received the members of the team at the Indira Gandhi International airport. Since the foreign teams in the tournament are exempted from mandatory quarantine, Pakistan will play a practice match against Chile on Sunday.

Pakistan will start their campaign against Germany On November 24, the same day hosts and arch-rivals India play against France in Pool B. Pakistan will play their second and third games in the pool against Egypt (November 27) and Argentina (November 28) respectively.

“Speaking on the occasion, the Charge d’ Affaires extended his best wishes to Pakistan Junior Hockey Team for their success during the Hockey World Cup,” the Pakistan high commission said. Stating that hockey is the national sport of Pakistan, he hoped that the players will perform with great spirit and the best of their abilities, it said.

“The head coach, members of the team management and the players appreciated Pakistan High Commission’s hospitality during transit in Delhi on their way to Bhubaneswar. They are fully prepared and in high spirits to give their best during the matches,” the high commission said.

This is the first international event in the country after the Covid-19 pandemic started. Several teams including hosts India, Germany, Poland, Belgium, USA, Canada, South Africa, The Netherlands, have already arrived in Bhubaneswar. A few more teams will arrive be in the next couple of days.

The other teams to arrive on the day are South African and Korea. Grouped in Pool A, along with Belgium, Chile, and Malaysia, South Africa are in for a challenging start in the group stage.

Excited to compete at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, South Africa head coach Sihle Ntuli said, “I believe it is the best stadium in the world and I am very happy for my players getting the opportunity to play at the stadium. We are very excited.”

Korean captain Soung Min Bae also spoke about their preparations for the tournament. “We prepared for the World Cup in Donghae, in Korea. We held a national camp where we had to play at least 10 matches, which has made our team stronger.

“Our players do not have much experience of playing in such a big stadium, just like most players from all teams, but we are confident we will get better as the tournament progresses,” he said.

South Africa will face off against Belgium in the first game of the tournament on November 24, while Korea, who are placed in Group C along with the Netherlands, Spain, and the USA, will take on the Dutch team in their first game of the competition on November 25.

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