The 2023 EuroHockey Indoor club season gets underway with AD Lousada hosting the Challenge I event in Portugal from Friday morning.
Lousada is one of the biggest clubs in Portugal and, over the last two decades, have won several outdoor and indoor national competitions.
They will be among the teams to watch in Pool B with internationals André Romariz in goal, defender Hélder Gonçalves; midfielders João Santos and José Pedro Valinhas and the attacker, Ricardo Teixeira, leading their charge.
“We have prepared for this event with much expectation and enthusiasm,” said coach Hugo Santos. “It has been a while since we wanted to organize an EHF Indoor competition in Lousada again. We are passionate about indoor and this competition came at the best time as we are now growing again with the younger generation and this competition will help to attract more children to practice field hockey.
“I hope it will be an excellent tournament and that all teams enjoy Lousada and, in the end, will want to come back to our town. I wish all participants a good tournament and that the community of Lousada is present in force.”
Lousada won at this level in 2019 in Oslo but were relegated from the second tier in 2020 in Alanya.
In their group, they will meet Finland’s ABC Team, Lithuania’s Baltic Champs and Slovakia’s KPH Rača.
ABC have played in the Club Challenge II six times with their best finish in 2007; their most recent outing was in 2014 which leaves them with a modicum of recent Euro experience in Santeri Määttänen for Klippari and Attila Farkas for Hungary’s Soroksari on their squad list.
Baltic Champs were third in 2020 in Bratislava in Challenge II and 11 players with experience from that event – including top scorer Žygimantas Balsiukas with 10 goals – are on their panel this time.
KPH Rača have plenty of experience; they were the Challenge II hosts in 2020 when they were also winners of Euro Club Challenge II; they followed up with a fifth place in 2022 in Puconci (SLO) in Challenge I.
They beat Baltic Champs 2-0 in 2020 with two goals from Matej Jelačić; the much traveled Tomas Romanec is also in their squad having previously played in Europe with Slavia Prague and Post SV in 2022 in the top tier.
Pool A features Scotland’s Western Wildcats, Slovenia’s HK Triglav Predanovci, Bulgaria’s FHC Slavia 1921 and Hungary’s Építők.
Western have had a very successful last few indoor seasons, winning three of the last four Scottish titles, including an invincible domestic treble in the 2021-22 season. The team went unbeaten across the indoor and outdoor league as well as the Scottish cup, becoming the first in Scottish history to win all three competitions undefeated.
They retained their national title last week and this will be their second European campaign of the season having played in the Euro Hockey League in October.
Goalkeeper Gavin Sommerville has excellent experience both indoors and outdoors, having represented Scotland in both formats. Strike partners Rob Harwood (captain) and Andrew Mcconnell are key attacking threats, who along with defender Callum Duke who represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Joe Mcconnell and Hamish Galt have also donned the Scottish shirt.
Captain Harwood said: “Representing Western in another European competition will be a great honour. We spent a number of years away from European competition and it is great to be back competing on this stage regularly. We have just won our 3rd indoor title in four seasons and have a very strong squad with great depth. Our aim is to gain promotion for next season, and we are confident that we can achieve that.”
Építők Hockey Club is one of the biggest field hockey teams in Hungary and won their first national title in 2022 after a seven-year break. It is the culmination of some good work since 2019 under head coach from Poland, Darek Markiewicz.
A significant part of their team is made up of talented, young players who provide excellent support to their regular, more experienced players. Two German players with Bundesliga 2 experience studying in Hungary – Hermann Hannes Heissler and Samuel Bosch – strengthen the team.
Triglav Predanovci have met group rivals Építők before back in 2016 with goalscorers from that day – Davorin Škrilec, Tomaz Panker, Gregor Bukvić – all back hoping they can recreate their 5-2 success in Puconci.
Triglav’s most recent European campaign was in 2022 when they were sixth at this level of competition.
Bulgaria’s FHC Slavia 1921 will make their EuroHockey indoor appearance; they finished in seventh in 2020 in Varna-Kamchia with seven of that panel available once more while goalkeeper Mihail Bankov has experience on this stage with Akademik and NSA.
They did meet Western before in 2020 but fell 9-0 and so their meeting will be a measure of how much they have improved since then.
** Real-time scores, results and match data will be uploaded to the following site: https://eurohockey.altiusrt.com/competitions/301