The Junior AHF Cup title holders Bangladesh National U-21 Hockey Team vice-captain Rakibul Hasan Rocky said that he was now dreaming of the World Cup. Bangladesh emerged as unbeaten champions beating the hosts Oman by 1 (7)-1 (6) in the final last Thursday. The team also earned a slot for the upcoming Junior Asia Cup 2023 in May in Oman, a qualifier for next year’s Junior World Cup. While talking to The Daily Sun over the phone on Sunday, the U-21s forward also said the title boosted their confidence for the junior world cup qualifiers. Here are excerpts:
Rocky: Definitely, the World Cup. I’m dreaming of the World Cup. If our neighbouring India, Pakistan can play in the World Cup, why not us? The World Cup qualifiers (Junior Asia Cup) will be held in May. We have more than four months; I think it’s enough time to get prepared. We just have to start the camp on time. The players are mentally confident and physically fit as well. We just have to work out our mistakes in the camp. I believe we can do it, we can qualify for the World Cup; we will do it.
The Daily Sun: When will the camp start?
Rocky: The federation said the camp will start soon, but the dates are yet to be announced. We are now on vacation.
The Daily Sun: Bangladesh didn’t lose a single match in the Junior AHF Cup. How do you evaluate your performance there?
Rocky: Most of the players were from the BKSP (Bangladesh KriraShikkhaProtisthan). We have been playing in different competitions (domestic), and doing camps for a long time. There had been a good combination among the players. We also played franchise hockey just a few days before the competition. So, the players were physically fit for the competition. We just worked on our technical sides, especially on scoring and defence during the camp. That was enough to overcome our issues.
Rocky: Undoubtedly! Franchise hockey has a huge impact on our performance, especially on me. The tournament was very competitive. We got a chance to learn from foreign coaches and to play with top-level players on both national and global stages. They had many tactics and game plans. It was something different and more professional. We gained vast experience from that tournament that we utilised in Oman. In a word, franchise hockey boosted our level of confidence before the AHF Cup and played a vital role in our success.
The Daily Sun: Are you playing for the national team?
Rocky: I played in three competitions for the national team so far. I made my debut at the Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka (December 2021). Then, I was part of the team for the Men’s AHF Cup in Indonesia (March 2022), but failed to fly with the team due to passport issues. The last tournament was the Hero Asia Cup in Indonesia (May 2022), a qualifier for the World Cup. The Asia Cup was one of the toughest competitions I’ve ever played -- teams like Korea and Japan were very strong and speedy. They were technically sound and physically fit far better than us. I learned a lot from them. It helped me in the franchise hockey and Junior AHF Cup. I scored seven goals in the Junior AHF Cup and seven goals for Dhaka Walton in franchise hockey.