Why do the Indian Hockey teams have only one goalkeeper for Tokyo Olympics 2020? 

P.R. Sreejesh and his deputy, Krishan Bahadur Pathak
P.R. Sreejesh and his deputy, Krishan Bahadur Pathak

Hockey India has announced strong squads (men's and women's) for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. The squads are a mix of youth and experience.

The Indian Women’s team, which will be led by Rani Rampal, has a mix of eight debutants and eight stalwarts who have had the experience of representing India at the 2016 Rio Olympics after a gap of 36 years.

The Men’s team has as many as 10 Olympic debutants along with big names like captain Manpreet Singh and P.R. Sreejesh, who will be representing India in their third consecutive Olympics.

Of late, there have been many questions about why the Indian Hockey teams (announced for the Olympics) have only one goalkeeper, going into the biggest sporting extravaganza.

What would happen if the goalkeeper gets injured mid-match? Would India play without a goalkeeper for the rest of the match? Why is it a team of 16 players instead of a traditional 18-member team? We have answered all these questions for you.

Why Hockey India announced one goalkeeper in the 16-member squad

Both Indian hockey teams have announced 16-member squads with 3 reserves each who will also be traveling with the teams to Tokyo. The reserve athletes are named Alternate Athletes (Ap).

The Indian men’s team has defender Varun Kumar, forward Simranjeet Singh and goalkeeper Krishan B. Pathak as reserves, while the women’s team will rely on midfielder Namita Toppo, defender Reena Khokhar and goalkeeper Rajani Etimarpu in case any of the players from the 16-member squad are unable to participate in the mega-event.

Read Also: There will be no let down this time in Olympics, says Savita Punia

Indian Hockey Team Goalkeepers, P.R. Sreejesh and Savita Punia
Indian Hockey Team Goalkeepers, P.R. Sreejesh and Savita Punia

According to the rules of the FIH set out specifically for the Tokyo Olympics, it says that after the “Sport Entries Deadline”, (which is July 5 2021 for Tokyo 2020), an athlete can only be replaced in case of any medical emergency or any exceptional reasons after consulting with the IOC and relevant International Federation (which is FIH in case of hockey).

This procedure is known as the “IOC LATE ATHLETE REPLACEMENT POLICY”. This policy is only applicable to those sports/disciplines where the quota place has been allocated to the NOC and not to an athlete by name.

Late Athlete Replacement is only possible provided that:

• The replacement Athlete meets the eligibility conditions and qualification criteria to take part in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, as stipulated in the “Qualification Systems – Olympic Games Tokyo 2020” per sport/disciplines.

• The NOC of the replacement Athlete had applied successfully for accreditation for the Athlete before the accreditation application deadline, and thus, the replacement Athlete has been registered by Tokyo 2020 in the “NOC's Athlete Accreditation Long List”; and

• No doping control issues are pending concerning the replacement Athlete.

Apart from having to meet these conditions, several steps need to be followed as well while completing this Athlete Replacement Policy set out by the IOC.

The “Late Athlete Replacement Form” and “Sport Entry Form” must be completed and a valid medical certificate or supporting document for the replaced athlete must be submitted by the relevant NOC. It must be done for both the athlete being replaced and the replacement athlete using the eLAR tool in the Sport Entries System (SEQ).

With all these rules and regulations, we can understand that the reserves or the Alternate Athletes in the Indian Hockey teams would be traveling to Tokyo and can replace a player in case of any injury or any other medical emergency, subject to approval from the IOC, FIH and National Olympic Committee.

Read Also: 3 reasons why Indian men's hockey team is poised to win a medal at Tokyo Olympics

So, would the Indian Hockey team be able to bring in Krishan B. Pathak mid-match if P.R. Sreejesh gets injured?

The answer is “No”. Players can only be replaced after a match and the last replacement can be done before the finals. No player can be replaced during the final match or on the final day of the event.

Krishan B. Pathak will replace P.R. Sreejesh for the whole tournament, but only if the latter gets injured or is out for any other reason, according to FIH rules and permission from the IOC and NOC. It means that the Indian hockey teams and every other hockey team will have to play without a goalkeeper in case any of their GKs get injured mid-match.

Two Late Athlete Replacements (Ap Athletes) will be allowed until the Event Briefing Meeting before the start of the Hockey competition, scheduled to take place on Friday 23 July 2021. As an exception, NOCs will replace one goalkeeper with an eligible athlete (goalkeeper) from the accreditation long list until the start of the final day of the Hockey competitions for the women’s and men’s Competitions respectively.

The Indian Men’s team has a strong line-up with a mix of youth and experience. They are expected to break the 40-year medal jinx at the Olympics.

Read Also: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Indian Men's Hockey Team Opponents


1. The policies, guidelines, and regulations are subject to further changes by the IOC in exceptional circumstances.

2. All the above pieces of information have been found on the FIH website and have no personal suggestions or analysis.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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