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Field hockey

Field Hockey is a popular Olympic sport in many countries around the world, with India, Pakistan, Germany, The Netherlands and Australia the most successful international teams. It is popular for both men and women. In these countries, where ice hockey is not common, it is generally referred to simply as "hockey".

Modern field hockey was born with the formation of The Hockey Association[?] in England on January 18, 1886.

The game is played between two teams of eleven players on a 91.4 x 54.8 metre (100 x 60 yard) rectangular field. Most modern fields are covered with "synthetic grass" - a smooth, carpet-like material, but the game was traditionally played on grass. At each end there is a goal approximately 2.1 metres high, and 3.7 metres wide, and a semi-circle approximately 16 metres from the goal known as the "shooting circle", as well as lines across the field approximately 24 metres from each end-line and in the centre of the field.

Each player carries a "stick", about 90 centimetres long and traditionally made of wood but now often made with fibreglass, kevlar and carbon fibre composites, with a rounded handle of approximately 2.5 centimetres diameter at the top flattening out on one side and with a hook at the bottom, with which they can push, dribble, or hit a hard plastic, usually dimpled, ball about 7 centimetres in diameter.

They are only permitted to play the ball with the flat side of the stick, which is always on the "natural" side for a right-handed person - there are no "left-handed" hockey sticks. Players are not permitted to let the ball strike any part of their body or propel the ball with any part of the stick other than the flat part.

One player from each team, however, is designated the "goalkeeper", and is permitted to play the ball with any part of their body. Goalkeepers usually wear extensive protective equipment including helmets, chest guards, body armour, heavily padded gloves, and leg and foot guards designed not only to protect the goalkeeper but allow them to propel the ball away without the use of the stick. The goal of the teams is to play the ball into their "shooting circle" and from there, hit or push the ball into the goal. The team with the most goals after two 35-minute halves wins the game.

At the highest level, hockey is a fast-moving, highly skilled sport, with players using fast manoeuvering with the stick, quick accurate passing, and hits that travel at up to 160 km/h in attempts to keep possession and move the ball towards the goal. Whilst tackling and otherwise obstructing players is not permitted, collisions are common, and the speed at which the ball travels along the ground (it is not illegal to cause the ball to fly off the ground when "hitting" unless the ball could be deemed dangerous, but legal when "pushing" at the ball provided there is nobody in the way) requires the use of padded shin guards to prevent injury. Some of the tactics used superficially resemble soccer, but with greater speed - the best players manouver and score goals almost quicker than the eye can see.

The most prestigious tournament in hockey is undoubtedly the Olympic Games. In the men's game, The Netherlands are the current Olympic champions, with South Korea and Australia taking the minor medals. Historically, the Indian and Pakistani teams dominated the men's game for many years, but have lessened in prominence recently. Before the introduction of the women's hockey at the Olympics, the best international team in the world was the Netherlands. From the early 1990ies, Australia has been by far the best in the women's game internationally, though the retirement of a number of key players has weakened the team recently.

Many countries have extensive club competitions for both junior and senior players. Despite the large numbers of participants, club hockey is not a particularly large spectator sport and very few players can afford to play professionally.

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