England have withdrawn from hockey’s Men’s Junior World Cup in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar, citing “a number of COVID-related concerns” including a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
The 10-day quarantine for British visitors to India was brought in last week, after the United Kingdom Government excluded those fully inoculated with Covishield, the Indian-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, from new quarantine exemptions for international arrivals.
India suffered one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks earlier in the year, with daily cases topping 400,000 in May, but this declined to 20,799 yesterday.
The country, which ranks as the second most populous in the world at around 1.4 billion, has recorded more than 33 million infections since the beginning of the pandemic and just under 450,000 deaths.
England Hockey has now made the decision to withdraw from the Men’s Junior World Cup, due to be held from November 24 to December 5 this year, describing its involvement as “untenable”.
It said player and staff wellbeing concerns were a key factor.
The Australian and New Zealand national teams have also withdrawn from the men’s and women’s Junior World Cup.
They will be replaced by the United States and Canada in the men’s tournament, and Argentina and South Africa in the women’s.
England’s replacements are yet to be announced.
England Hockey performance director Ed Barney explained that the decision had not been taken lightly.
“With a heavy heart we have chosen to withdraw from the tournament,” Barney said.
“We are hugely empathetic to the players and coaches who will miss out on this opportunity to represent their country.
“This event is the pinnacle of junior international hockey and we know how much effort and dedication the squad has shown over the past 18 months to prepare for this throughout the pandemic.
“We have experienced the herculean effort that went into the Olympic Games, and alongside this, we saw the implications across some British sports and our international hockey counterparts when COVID was prevalent.
“On balance, and against clear criterion, we have made the difficult decision that it is not appropriate for our junior international men to travel.
“With final tournament details having been published late last month, it has made the situation very difficult for all concerned.
“Hockey India and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have done all they can and for this, we are hugely appreciative, but in a global pandemic, our collective hands are tied, sadly.”
The Women’s Junior World Cup is due to take place in South Africa in December 2021.
South Africa battled against a third wave of infections from June to August but some restrictions have eased following a decline in cases.
India are the reigning champions of the Men’s Junior World Cup from 2016, when the country also hosted the event in Lucknow, while Argentina won the last edition of the Women’s Junior World Cup in the Chilean capital Santiago in the same year.