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News for 17 January 2015

All the news for Saturday 17 January 2015

Can't afford a slip-up against Ukraine

by Jugjet Singh

MALAYSIA will face unknown entity Ukraine in the curtain raiser of the World League Round Two in Singapore today, and they need to score early goals against the robust and hard-playing Russians for a good start.

Playing in Group A, coach Tai Beng Hai's world no 13 team can't afford any more slip-ups, as Ukraine are ranked 24th, Oman 22nd and Singapore 36th.
Japan, ranked 14th, are in Group B with Poland (18th), Bangladesh (30th) and Mexico (35th).

Stakes are very high for Malaysia, as the top three teams qualify for the WL Semi-finals and a shot at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The last time Malaysia played in the Olympics was in Sydney 2000.

The only inside into the Ukranian style was unveiled when they played Bangladesh in a friendly and won 2-1, but Bangladesh coach K. Gobinathan said his team should have won by 10 goals if not for the missed sitters. And that, missing sitters, was Malaysia's bane last year.

Skipper Razie Rahim has a double task of defending penalty corners as well as scoring them to keep Malaysia afloat in the tournament. All eight teams qualify for the quarter-finals, but Malaysia need to finish tops in their Group to justify their rankings and enter the knock-out stages on a high.

"The pitch is new and a little bumpy in certain areas, but not at the penalty corner areas and in training, my attempts at goal have been satisfactory. Also, at the Asian Games (where he scored nine goals) I was the only flicker but here, I have Faizal Saari and the options are better," said the lanky Razie.

The forward line of Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Saari, Izwan Firdaus, Firhan Ashaari and Haziq Samsul can't afford too miss sitters, as lower ranked teams normally grow in confidence when the score remains 0-0 for a long period.

In midfield, Malaysia has one of the best in pint-sized Faiz Helmi  who barely stands at 5 feet, but has not shown any fear when playing robust and teller Europeans in his 66 caps for the country. He first played in the Champions Challenge in Argentina in 2012 and is among the main-stays now.

"As always, I am ready and fearless against any team in the world. This tournament is no different as our aim is to win place in the final and qualify for the WL Semi-finals early. We will be discussing about Ukraine later tonight (yesterday) and plan for a win," said the small-built player with a big heart.

In Faiz, Malaysia has a role model on how to become champions in Singapore.

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Azmi: Best chance for gold

by Jugjet Singh

MALAYSIAN team manager Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad believes this is the best time for Malaysia to win a gold medal, as the opponents in the World League Round Two in Singapore are not heavy-weights.

The tournament, which starts on Saturday, will see top seed Malaysia play Ukraine, Oman and Singapore. The top-three teams qualify for the World League Semi-finals which is a door to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

"As the top seeds I believe this is our best chance to win a gold medal and qualify for the WL Semifinals on a confident note. The teams here are not world beaters, and we can beat all of them provided there is full commitment from the players in every match.

"I have spoken the players and they are committed to the cause, as all their needs have been taken care off, and there are no more grouses off the pitch. Now, they just need to give their best for the country.

Australian Neil Hawgood has been roped in as consultant to help chief coach Tain Beng Hai and he was at the Sengkang stadium with the team yesterday.

Malaysia were supposed to play a friendly with Singapore yesterday, but the match was called off as many Singapore players have picked up injuries leading to the tournament.

"We have a balanced team as our goalkeeper (S. Kumar) is among the best in the world and with good penalty corner flickers (Razie Rahim and Faizal Saari) I believe the team will not let down their fans again like last year," said Nur Azmi.

Malaysia were a total flop last year as they struggled in the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and gave away the gold in the Champions Challenge I and the Asian Games.

Their performance against minnows, even though ranked 13th in the World also came to question when they lost to World No 29 Trinidad and Tobago 4-2 in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

But that is the past: "I have selected the best players, and the plan is to win the semi-finals and grab a ticket to the WL semi-finals early to avoid unnecessary pressure in the third-fourth placing match," said Beng Hai.

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Gobinathan: Bangladesh ready for battle

by Jugjet Singh

BANGLADESH coach K. Gobinathan brought down a young team to the World League Round Two in Singapore, as he plans to blood them for the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan at the end of the year,

Even the, the former Malaysian international said none of the Malaysian players can match his boys when it comes to fitness.

"The players are tactically much better after I coached them for a month, and are super fit. None of the Malaysian players can come close to their fitness level," said Gobinathan.

Bangladesh are in Group B with Japan, Poland and Mexico. In Group A are Malaysia, Oman, Ukraine and Singapore.

Gobinathan's boys played a friendly against the Malaysian juniors before arriving in Singapore, and they only lost 2-1. Yesterday, Bangladesh played against Ukraine and also lost 2-1.

"We missed too many sitters in both the games, as shooting in the semi-circle is still a big problem. However, we aim to give every team in our group a tough fight as my plan is to have a solid side for the Junior Asia Cup.

"I have 12 players in Singapore who can play for Bangladesh in the junior tournament, and I believe we have a side which can win a medal in Kuantan," said Gobinathan.

The only chance of Malaysia meeting Bangladesh is if they top Group A, and Bangladesh finishes at the bottom of Group B -- and the clash will be at the quarter-finals level.

"No way we will meet Malaysia in the quarter finals, as we aim to make an impact in this tournament," said Gobinathan.

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Optimistic Razie wants to score in every game in Singapore

By Aftar Singh

Skipper Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim (left) was the joint top scorer in the Incheon Asian Games with nine goals.

SINGAPORE: Call it arrogance if you want, but skipper Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim has set himself a target of scoring in every match at the World Hockey League Round Two tournament which begins Saturday.

The 28-year-old penalty corner specialist knows he will have to deliver the goods if he wants to help Malaysia live up to their top billing in the tournament.

World No. 13 Malaysia are in Group A with Oman (No. 22), Ukraine (No. 24) and Singapore (No. 36). Group B comprises Japan, Bangladesh, Poland and Mexico.

Malaysia last won an International Hockey Federation (FIH) tournament in 2010 – triumphing in a five-nation tournament in Paris.

Malaysia open their campaign against Ukraine and Razie said that nothing – not even the bumpy pitch at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium – is going to stop him from sounding the board.

“I’m in good form and in high spirits after emerging as joint top scorer with South Korea’s Jong Jang-hyun (nine goals) in the Asian Games in Incheon last September,” said Razie.

“It’ll be good if I can win the top scorer’s award here as well.”

Razie, who has been capped 190 times since 2006, also said that their real challenge will only come at the semi-final stage.

“We shouldn’t have any problems collecting full points from the three group matches and top the group. We will most likely face minnows Mexico in the quarter-finals,” he said.

“In the semi-finals, we should be up against either Japan or Poland, who are ranked 16th and 18th in the world respectively ... and that’s when our real battle begins.

“But that doesn’t mean we can take it easy against our other opponents.

“We’ve never played against Ukraine ... so we’re not sure of their actual strength. But we won’t be intimidated by their bigger physique.”

The Star of Malaysia

Hawgood: At least 30 months to deliver

by Jugjet Singh

NEW broom Australian Neil Hawgood believes Malaysia has many skilful and talented players, but he will need at least two and a half years before he can turn them into medal winners.

Hawgood has been hired as consultant for the Singapore World League Round Two, and that was his assessment after watching coach Tai Beng Hai's players train at the Sengkang Stadium.

"Well it took me two and a half years to turn the India women's team around, (and that should be the yardstick)," he said yesterday.

The senior Indian women qualified for the World Cup, while the juniors won bronze in the Junior World Cup.

Hawgood is being courted as the national coach, but first, the National Sports Council (NSC) wants the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) to clean up their amended constitution before talks about a foreign coach can move further.

His contract with India expired in December, and if all goes well Hawgood could just be foreign coach that MHC have been trying to secure for the last year.

When asked if he will adapt the Australian style in Malaysia: "No, that is not the approach I will take as every country has its own strength in playing hockey and I will work to improve some weak departments but not the style of play as Malaysia has very skilful players and I will work with this unique character and balance it out to bring out the best," said Hawgood.

Malaysia has seen many foreign coaches before Hawgood and even the likes of Australian Terry Walsh, and Germans Volker Knapp, Paul Lissek and South African Paul Revington could not do much to improve the world rankings.

Malaysia are stuck on no 13: "World rankings do not mean a thing because world no 20 teams have finished fifth in the World League. India are the best in Asia, but second to South Korea in the world.

"The main aim is to develop a winning mentality, and with it, medals will come and naturally, the rankings will also be better."

In Singapore Hawgood said Malaysia have had a very good preparation, and if the players focus on the task at hand, winning a gold medal is not beyond this team.  

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Huge task for Hawgood to turn around Malaysian hockey

By Aftar Singh

Coach Tai Beng Hai (in red cap) will have the assistance of Australian consultant Neil Hawgood in the World League in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: They came, they trained and they left.

Malaysian hockey has seen so many foreign coaches come and go – from Australian Terry Walsh to Germany’s Volker Knapp and Paul Lissek and South Africa’s Paul Revington – but none has managed to improve the standard and world ranking of the national team.

Malaysia have been stuck at No. 13 in the world for the last five years.

So now, the question on everyone’s mind is whether consultant Neil Hawgood of Australia will be able to do what the others could not – bring positive changes to the national team, who have been struggling to make waves in the World Cup and the Olympics.

Malaysia finished last in the 12-team World Cup in The Hague, Holland, last June. Malaysia have also failed to qualify for the last three Olympics Games, having last featured in the 2000 edition in Sydney.

Hawgood, who watched Malaysia’s two training sessions at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium, believes he can turn around Malaysian hockey’s fortunes.

But he admitted that he would need at least two-and-half-years to help Malaysia produce a world-class team.

“Malaysia have talented players and the ability to go far. But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the standard of the players in every aspect of the game,” said Hawgood, 52.

“It takes time to improve things and people need to be patient.

“It took me two-and-half years to improve the standard of the Indian women’s team and helping them qualify for the World Cup in The Hague last year.”

Although the Indian women’s team finished last in the World Cup, they clinched the bronze medal in the Incheon Asian Games last September and also another bronze in the Junior World Cup in Germany in 2013.

So, will he introduce the Australian style of play to Malaysia?

“No. Everyone expects me to bring something new to the team. I can’t simply change the style of play ... it takes a long time to adapt to a new style. Instead, I’ll improvise by mixing up the two styles of play,” said Hawgood, who feels that the Malaysian team have had a good preparation for the World Hockey League Round Two.

“Playing well doesn’t mean they will win. They need to make use of the chances well and also cut down on their mistakes.

“All the teams here are well-prepared ... I hope Malaysia will rise to the occasion and win it,” added Hawgood, who is likely to be named national chief coach after the tournament.

Tai Beng Hai, who is the interim coach for the Singapore tournament, will assist Hawgood.

The Star of Malaysia

Two Ducks ready for France's Road to Rio

Waterloo Ducks duo Victor Charlet and Charles Masson, pictured, are among the leading lights named in Gael Foulard’s 21-strong player French panel that embarks on the first phases of their Road to Rio.

France’s two EHL sides are well represented with François Scheefer, Christophe Peters Deutz, Simon Martin-Brisac and Jean-Laurent Kieffer from Racing Club de France all involved as are St Germain’s François Goyet, Guillaume Samson and Martin Zylberman.

They arrived in Barcelona yesterday ahead of a game with Austria before playing two games against Spain with a clear objective – to build the framework of their philosophy of how they want to play.

It is part of the build-up to Cape Town in March for round two of the World League where they need to come in the top three to move on to the next phase where the Olympic places will be decided in the summer.

Speaking about the panel’s preparations, Foulard says his squad embarked on two phases of physical preparation at INSEP at the end of December and the squad are now looking to build up the hockey side of their game.

“The Austria game will be our first friendly against a team ranked lower than us in the world. I hope we will have enough in the tank to beat them.The objective for the Spanish games will be to work on my ambitions for how we play. For now, we will get satisfaction in terms of performance but not necessarily results. It is also necessary that we prepare well mentally, because the serious competition comes fast."

Euro Hockey League media release

New SA team for CT Summer Series hockey


THE national selection panel headed by Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games striker Ally Fredericks have named a new-look SA men’s hockey team for three Test matches at Hartleyvale in Cape Town from January 20 to 26.

The three matches form part of the annual Cape Town Summer Series; this year there are a bumper 20 matches that include 16 Test matches.

The SA men’s and SA women’s teams are taking part and the other countries are national men’s teams The Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland plus the flagship women’s teams from Belgium and Chile.

The series runs from January 20 to February 2 with three of the 20 matches – involving The Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland men - not at Hartleyvale but at Stellenbosch.

The SA men’s team’s three Hartleyvale Test matches are against The Netherlands on Tuesday, January 20 at 5pm; versus Ireland at 4pm on Sunday, January 25; and Ireland on Monday, January 26 at 7pm.

National men’s head coach Fabian Gregory will be combining the three matches with a week-long training camp. The SA squad meet in Cape Town on Monday.

Friday, Gregory said chat the composition of the squad is made up of those players who impressed in the exciting 2-1 series loss to Austria in Durban just over a week ago, plus the recall of some of the more seasoned players.

Several experienced SA players such as national captain Austin Smith are again unavailable for this series as they are representing their franchise teams in the Hockey India League during this period, while others are unavailable due to factors such as overseas club commitments.

“This is the second phase of our preparation for the World League Round 2 event at Hartleyvale in early March and I expect The Netherlands and Ireland to provide a considerably higher level of competition to that which we experienced in Durban,” said Gregory.

Gates open 1 hour before the first match. Ticket prices are R30 per person.

Goalkeepers: Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders); Jacques le Roux (Western Province); Jason Briggs, Sizwe Mthembu (both Southern Gauteng).
Defenders: Gareth Heyns, Lance Louw (both Southerns); Robin Jones (both Raiders); Daniel Bell, Rhett Halkett, Dylan Swanepoel (all WP).
Midfielders: Ross Hetem, Dan Sibbald (both Raiders); Marc Fourie (WP), Jethro Eustice, Clint Panther, Miguel da Graca (all Southerns).
Strikers: Pierre de Voux, Keenan Horne, Shannon Boucher (all WP); Brandon Panther (Southerns); Natius Malgraff, Dalan Phillips (both EP); Damian Kimfley (KZN Inland).

SA Hockey Association media release

FIH announce the winners of the FIH 2014 Coach of the Year

(Photo: FIH)

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is delighted to announce the winners of the inaugural FIH 2014 Coach of the Year.  Ric Charlesworth has won the Men’s team Coach of the Year and Max Caldas has been awarded the Women’s team Coach of the Year.

In June this year, Ric Charlesworth retired from international hockey coaching, a day after his Kookaburra team lifted the World Cup in The Hague. It was a fitting finale to a long and illustrious career, with the Australians taking the trophy in style, beating host nation the Netherlands in emphatic fashion; thereby earning the title 2014 Men’s team Coach of the Year.

Since taking over as coach of the men's team in 2009, Ric has led the Kookaburras to World Cup and Commonwealth Games titles, an Olympic bronze and four Champions Trophy gold medals. Prior to that, he was coach to the women's national team, picking up two Olympic gold medals, two World Cup gold medals, one Commonwealth Games gold and four Champions Trophy gold medals.  An incredible haul of honours in addition to his illustrious playing career.

In 2014, Ric has also received the FIH Order of Merit, in recognition of his unique personal achievements.

From 2012 to 2014, it seemed that everything Max Caldas touched turned to gold. The former Argentinian international took over as head coach to the Netherland's women in 2010, although he had been assistant coach when they won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The team repeated this feat under Caldas's control at the 2012 London Olympics and then added a Hockey World League gold in 2013 and World Cup gold in 2014.

The World Cup, won in front of 15,000 adoring fans in The Hague, was the pinnacle of Caldas's career with the women's team. Really there was nowhere else he could go as the Oranje stormed to victory - only conceding one goal in all their matches and ensuring Max became the first FIH Women’s team Coach of the Year.

Caldas, who is contracted to the Dutch Hockey Board (KNHB) until after Rio 2016, has now moved to coach the national men's team and his replacement as head coach to the women, Sjoerd Marijne, paid him the ultimate compliment when he said he planned to "change very little from the way Max did things."

The FIH would like to congratulate both Ric and Max and thank them for their significant contribution to hockey.

FIH site

World Coach of the Year

Former coach Ric Charlesworth named FIH Coach of the Year 2014

Former Kookaburras coach Ric Charlesworth was named hockey’s International Men’s Coach of the Year 2014 by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Friday night.
It is the second accolade to be bestowed on Australian hockey in 24 hours following the announcement on Thursday of Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles as International Player of the Year.
Charlesworth, who masterminded the Australian men’s team’s 2014 World Cup victory, left his position in June following the tournament.

Commenting on the award, Hockey Australia Chief Executive Cam Vale said, “What Ric achieved last year in leading the Kookaburras to the World Cup title and the manner in which it was done was a real highlight in an outstanding year. For me he is one of the greatest coaches in Australian sporting history and it’s pleasing to see his achievements with the team last year have been recognised at the highest level of our sport.” 
It is the latest acknowledgement of an unparalleled career at the top of Australian and world sport and follows the FIH decision in November to present him with its Order of Merit for his unique personal achievements and contribution to international hockey.
In 2014, he led the Kookaburras to victory in 19 of the team’s 23 matches under his charge, losing in three and drawing just one.
Australia’s emphatic 6-1 victory over the hosts, the Netherlands, in the World Cup final in The Hague was Charlesworth’s final flourish. It was his fourth World Cup success having guided the Kookaburras to the 2010 title in India and the women’s team, the Hockeyroos, to success in 1994 and 1998.
In doing so the Kookaburras became only the third team to ever successfully defend a men’s World Cup title as they roared back from a goal behind to leave the Dutch shell-shocked with Chris Ciriello netting a hat-trick, supplemented by strikes from Kieran Govers, Glenn Turner and Jamie Dwyer.
After initially announcing in March 2014 his intention to leave the post of Kookaburras coach following the Commonwealth Games he brought forward his departure in the wake of the World Cup triumph, citing that it would be “an indulgence” to stay on. His long term assistants Graham Reid and Paul Gaudoin took charge in Glasgow with Reid ultimately appointed as his successor in September.

Dutch coach Max Caldas was named women's Coach of the Year after leading the Netherlands to the women's World Cup title.
Ric Charlesworth’s Awards and Accolades
Western Australian Sportsman of the Year (1976, 1979, 1987)
Advance Australia Award (1984)
Western Australian Institute of Sport Hall of Champions (inducted 1985)
Member of the Order of Australia (AM) (1987)
Sport Australia Hall of Fame (inducted 1987)
Western Australian Sports Champions of the Year Coach of the Year (1994-2000)
Australian Coaching Council Team Coach of the Year (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)
Confederation of Australian Sport Coach of the Year (1996, 1997, 2000)
Australian Sports Medal (2000)
Western Australia Citizen of the Year (2001)
Hockey Australia Hall of Fame (inducted 2008)
WA Best Coach of the Year (2010)
Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Coach of the Year (2010)
FIH Order of Merit (2014)
FIH International Men's Coach of the Year (2014)

Hockey Australia media release

Charlesworth, Caldas win men's and women's coach of the Year

LAUSANNE: Former Australia coach Ric Charlesworth and former Dutch coach Max Caldas were awarded the inaugural Coach of the Year for the men's and women's team respectively, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) said on Friday.

Charlesworth had retired from international hockey coaching, a day after his Kookaburra team lifted the World Cup in The Hague, in June this year.

It was a fitting finale to a long and illustrious career, with the Australians taking the trophy in style, beating host nation the Netherlands in emphatic fashion.

Since taking over as coach of the men's team in 2009, Charlesworth has led the Kookaburras to World Cup and Commonwealth Games titles, an Olympic bronze and four Champions Trophy gold medals.

Prior to that, he was coach to the women's national team, picking up two Olympic gold medals, two World Cup gold medals, one Commonwealth Games gold and four Champions Trophy gold medals. An incredible haul of honours in addition to his illustrious playing career.

In 2014, Charlesworth also received the FIH Order of Merit, in recognition of his unique personal achievements.

Caldas, on the other hand, seemed to turn everything into gold from 2012 to 2014. The former Argentinian international took over as head coach to the Netherland's women in 2010, although he had been assistant coach when they won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The team repeated this feat under Caldas's control at the 2012 London Olympics and then added a Hockey World League gold in 2013 and World Cup gold in 2014.

The World Cup, won in front of 15,000 adoring fans in The Hague, was the pinnacle of Caldas's career with the women's team.

Caldas, who is contracted to the Dutch Hockey Board (KNHB) until after Rio 2016, has now moved to coach the national men's team and his replacement as head coach to the women, Sjoerd Marijne, paid him the ultimate compliment when he said he planned to "change very little from the way Max did things."

The Times of India

HIL top draw says coach didn’t want him to play

Harpreet Kaur Lamba

In the summer of 2006, Germany’s 2002 World Cup-winning captain Florian Kunz watched from the sidelines as the team went on to defend the title at home. Kunz had tears of joy in his eyes, and also those of remorse. He knew he could have been a part of that triumph, but had quit the sport for lack of finances.

Kunz’s life is a reflection on the world of hockey, where even Olympic medals and World Cup triumphs do not promise a decent living. Mind you, Germany are reigning Olympic champions.

Cut to 2015, Belgium’s Tom Boon - who will draw a handsome $103,000 in the Hockey India League - faced a similar dilemma. The HIL’s costliest player was told by coach Jerome Delmee to skip the cash-rich tournament for national duty.

Drag-flicker Boon, who arrived here on the day to join Dabang Mumbai, says the offer was "too lucrative to be ignored".

"It was my call to play the HIL. The national camp is on and the coach suggested that it would be better if I do not play the HIL. But I decided to combine both.

"I am looking to improve my skills through the league and take back valuable experience that will help me in the national camp as well," Boon said.

Boon was lapped up for a cool $103,000 in the HIL auction, making him the best-paid player in the tournament ahead of even India skipper Sardar Singh ($78,000).
Ask Boon and he says he still finds it difficult to come to terms with the sum.

"Believe me, all I was hoping was to just get picked. But this amount was crazy and unthinkable. It is hard for a hockey player to earn that kind of money. Now, it is my duty to perform to the best of my abilities here."

The 24-year old, who participated in the Champions Trophy tournament in Bhubaneshwar last month, says his team mates are proud of him.

"They understand that I needed to come here. It is very different for us," says Boon, the only Belgian in the league.

Boon rose to stardom during the 2014 World Cup in Holland, when his four-goal effort saw Belgium past Malaysia in a crucial tie. The youngster marked his presence among the most fearsome drag-flickers, managing to score even through the narrowest of gaps.

Belgium have made rapid strides in recent times and Boon attributes it to the structure in place. "We have slowly moved from a group of semi-professionals to professionals. We work a lot on the technical areas and that has helped us moved forward."

The Asian Age

Of Australians and City Beautiful

Punjab Warriors sounded pretty hopeful of their chances in the third edition of the Hockey India League during a  press conference in Chandigarh on Friday. Tribune photo:Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh - There’s some strange connect between Chandigarh and the Australian sportspersons. The sports franchises based in City Beautiful are invariably packed with Australian imports. Kings XI Punjab, the IPL franchise, have been Aussie-heavy right from season one; and so is Jaypee Punjab Warriors, the Chandigarh-based Hockey India League franchise.

While Kings XI have had the names like Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist, George Bailey, Mitchell Johnson in their ranks, the hockey franchise too can boast of equally big and well-known names — Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles and Barry Dancer, the coach of the team.

Is it merely a coincidence, or there’s something more to it? “Well, I think we all love Chandigarh. I was chatting with Brett Lee a few days back and he told me he loves Chandigarh. Maybe that’s rubbing off on all the Australians,” said the smiling Dwyer, the Punjab Warriors captain, on the sidelines of a function to unveil the team jersey.

Jagbir Singh, the team manager, too has something to offer on the city franchises’ obsession with the Aussie talent. “They have been dominating both hockey and cricket for the last many years, so any franchise would love to have them.”

Do the Australian hockey players too believe in “mental disintegration” of their opponents and sledging – something their cricketers are notorious for. “No, actually our sport hardly offers us any time to try anything like that; it’s too fast-paced for anything like that. But, yes, once in a while we do slip in a word or two,” said Dwyer. “And as we are on the subject, I think Indians cricketers too went down the Aussie way this time... they looked up to it this time around,” said the affable skipper.

Talking about their chances in the Hockey India League this time around, the team sounded pretty pumped up. “We weren’t up to scratch in the opening season but we made a tremendous progress in the last season, and this time we are hopeful of going all the way, we’ve a team to win the league this time,” said Dancer, the coach.

One criticism that the team had to endure last season was their over-dependence on drag flicker Sandeep Singh, the highest scorer in the last two editions of the league. The team, however, views it as an advantage. “We all know penalty corner and drag flicks are vital. It’s a skill that every team needs to master. Having Sandeep in our side gives us an edge. Yet it’s not that our players are constantly looking just for penalty corners, we aim to convert half chances into penalty corners because it gives us a better chance to score,” said Jagbir Singh.

Sandeep Singh, too, doesn’t feel bogged down with high expectations his team have from him. “No, there’s no pressure. I know I’ve to get my flicks in. I’ve done well in the last two seasons, and I am confident of doing it this time too,” said Sandeep.

The Tribune

Scope for growth in Zimbabwe

(Photo: FIH)

FIH CEO Kelly Fairweather made a recent visit to Zimbabwe where he met with the Hockey Association Zimbabwe (HAZ), Government officials, potential sponsors and visited stadiums and schools.

Hockey in Zimbabwe has the second biggest player base (after football) in the country, a good gender balance and a strong youth foundation in many schools.  Currently, Zimbabwe has three pitches, two in Bulawayo (one water base and one sand filled) and another sand filled at the Arundel School in the capital city of Harare.   Bulawayo has approximately 1,000 hockey players and Harare 8,000.  The majority of these players, are youth players and the club structure is undergoing a major overhaul. 

The first stop on Kelly’s agenda was a visit to the Magamba Hockey Stadium, Harare where he met with Chairman of Sports and Recreation Commission, Edward Siwela and CEO Charles Nhemachena.  While the stadium has a solid infrastructure, it is in need of renovation and an upgrade of the facilities.

He then met individually with Deputy Minister of Sports, Art and Culture, Hon Tabetha Malinga and Secretary of Ministry of Sport, Dr. Thokozile Chitepo and also with the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Hon Mzembi who were all very positive and supportive towards the growth of hockey in Zimbabwe.

Alongside recently elected HAZ President Marl Manolios and Vice President Humphrey Chigwedere, who were with Kelly throughout his trip, Kelly met with potential sponsors, giving him the opportunity to explain the FIH strategy and support for hockey in both Zimbabwe and Africa in general.

Finally, Kelly sat down with the HAZ Executive Board and other stakeholders.  In discussion with the HAZ Board members, school representatives, coaches and athletes, Kelly outlined the strategy of the FIH and stressed the importance that HAZ work on their governance structure and a strategic plan for the next four years.  The meeting also discussed facilities, coaching, sponsors, development of youth and how to maximize Zimbabwe’s strong youth base while building clubs. 

Kelly summarised his visit: “There is plenty of scope for growth in Zimbabwe and the key is to find at least one new pitch if not two in Harare.  My visit showed me how motivated people are to make a positive contribution to hockey in Zimbabwe and at FIH, we are looking at options to support HAZ in this quest.”

FIH site

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