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News for 03 April 2015

All the news for Friday 3 April 2015

Roos go down to China

China defeat Hockeyroos 4-1 match one of the International Challenge

After four years, the Hockeyroos made their return to the Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday evening, where they won Olympic gold back in 2000. However, on this occasion they finished second, going down 4-1 to China in their first match of the three-game International Challenge.  
The Hockeyroos, featuring a mixture of senior and new faces, battled through the robust Chinese defence throughout the 60 minutes of play but clinical Chinese penalty corners did it for Australia.
China quickly created the first opportunity of the night off the back of a penalty corner after just two minutes; Qiuxia Cui giving them an early 1-0 lead, slotting the ball behind Hockeyroos goalkeeper Ashlee Wells.
Taking the game to the hosts, China made the most of their set pieces, scoring after they were awarded penalty corners in the 26th and 43rd minutes. Both were expertly converted by Mengyu Wang and Quianquian Bao to give the visitors breathing space at 3-0.
Four minutes later Emily Smith, with help from Amelia Spence broke the ice for the Hockeyroos, scoring from a field goal in the 47th minute after excellent build-up play from Mariah Williams. The goal gave Australia hope at 3-1 but it wasn’t enough to spark the comeback. With a quick counter-attacking field goal from Meiyu Liang 10 minutes before the final siren, China completed the scoring 4-1.
Queenslanders Savannah Fitzpatrick and Renee Taylor and New South Wales’ Kate Hanna made their official debuts in the famous Hockeyroos’ bodysuit for the first time after receiving their call-up to the squad last week.
In their first competitive match since winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - eight months ago - Madonna Blyth, Rachael Lynch and Georgie Parker made their return in front of a home crowd.
After the match, Hockeyroos captain Madonna Blyth said of her return to the squad and captaining three new faces – Savannah Fitzpatrick, Kate Hanna and Renee Taylor; “I think it’s one of those things that takes a little time. We’re lucky that we’ve got the depth coming through and that we can blood three new players in this tournament as well as a couple of girls that have only had a handful of games.

“To get back out there and to get back into the pace and speed of international hockey is great leading into our tournament coming up in New Zealand, so the next couple of games for us is really important in our development and we want to make sure that we get off to a better start on Saturday.”
Speaking to Hockeyroos Head Coach Adam Commens directly after the match, he commented, “I think it was a game where we saw the inexperience of our team. Not only did we have three debutants but we had a number of players playing in new positions.
“We started off pretty slowly and I thought our second half was a better performance. I think we saw that if you give China space they’re able to move the ball well and they were really efficient in their finishing tonight.
“I certainly think we need to get back to a more aggressive style of defending. I think tonight they were regularly first to the ball; we were beaten to the ball, we were knocked off the ball – we needed to be more physical and more aggressive than that.
“Our trademark hockey is having a really smothering style of defence and tonight we didn’t see that at all.”
Commens said he was happy with the performances of Australia’s three debutants adding, “I thought they showed glimpses of what we’re after with the Hockeyroos. Certainly you don’t expect them to be world’s best in their first performance but they showed some great composure at times and some good level of skill and they worked hard and that’s all you can ask. I think that as they get more experienced, they’ll continue to grow.”
The Hockeyroos’ second match against China will take place on Saturday 4 April, 3pm AEDT at Sydney Olympic Park. Tickets to attend this game can be purchased through Ticketek Australia or alternatively you can watch the match live online via Epicentre.TV.

The Hockeyroos v China International Challenge is supported by the NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
Match 1
Hockeyroos: 1 (0)
Emily Smith 47 (FG)

China: 4 (2)
Qiuxia Cui 2 (PC)
Mengyu Wang 26 (PC)
Qianqin Bao 43 (PC)
Meiyu Liang 50 (FG)
Hockeyroos Squad
Athlete (Hometown, State) caps/goals
Madonna Blyth (Brisbane, QLD) 293/65
Edwina Bone (Evatt, ACT) 63/2
Kirstin Dwyer (Mackay, QLD) 65/2
Kate Jenner (Tamworth, NSW) 107/1
Jodie Kenny (Wamuran, QLD) 129/73
Georgia Nanscawen (Melbourne, VIC) 147/29
Brooke Peris (Darwin, NT) 45/8
Emily Smith (Crookwell, NSW) 109/46
Renee Taylor (Everton Park, QLD) 1/0
Ashlee Wells (Morwell, VIC) 43/0
Mariah Williams (Newcastle, NSW) 6/1

Used Substitute
Savannah Fitzpatrick (Cabarita Beach, NSW) 1/0
Kate Hanna (Constitution Hill, NSW) 1/0
Rachael Lynch (Melbourne, VIC) 117/0
Georgina Morgan (Armidale, NSW) 4/0
Georgie Parker (Berri, SA) 70/23
Amelia Spence (Hobart, TAS) 8/1
Unused Substitute
Teneal Attard (Mackay, QLD) 198/10

Hockey Australia media release

Black Sticks Women make late changes

Olivia Merry has been called up due to injuries and illness within the Black Sticks squad

Head coach Mark Hager has been forced to make changes to the Black Sticks Women’s team ahead of their internationals against Korea and Japan this weekend at Auckland Grammar School.

Aniwaka Roberts and Rosie Keddell have unfortunately withdrawn due to injury and Sophie Cocks is out with illness.

Ella Gunson and Olivia Merry have had the call up to play against Korea on Saturday with one further replacement player still to be named. Jordan Grant replaces Cocks against Japan on Sunday.

Hager has also revealed the two NZ-A teams which will play against Korea in the curtain raiser on Sunday, and against Japan on Monday.

Charlotte Harrison, who has played 183 international tests, has been named in both sides and joins a young group of players from the Development Squad and Junior Black Sticks teams.

“Charlotte has shown an eagerness to return to international hockey and so we wanted to give selectors the opportunity to review her again and see where she’s at,” said Hager.

“These tests provide a great opportunity for the next group of players to get some game time against two teams that play quite a different style of hockey. We have deliberately selected a different team for each of the games so we can expose more players.”

After these games the Black Sticks Women head to Gisborne where they play against Argentina on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be the first time international hockey has played in the Gisborne, with a new turf recently being laid.

All teams then go to Hastings for the main event - the Hawke’s Bay Cup which is being held from 11-19 April. The tournament will feature eight of the top nations in the world. To read more, go to www.hockeyfestival.nz.

Click here to view the Black Sticks and NZ-A team lists for this weekend, as well as all other event details.

Tickets for this weekend’s games start from just $8 with family passes available for just $35. Tickets are cheaper online at www.dashtickets.co.nz than at the gate.

For those that can’t get to the games, all four games over Easter Weekend will be live streamed on www.hockeynz.co.nz with commentary from Bryan Waddle, Emily Naylor, Greg Nicol, Katie Glynn, Sophie Cocks and Rose Keddell.

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Rot Weiss, Daring, OZ and Kampong join KO8 party

Rot Weiss Koln, Royal Daring, Oranje Zwart and SV Kampong advanced to the KO8 of the Euro Hockey League on a closely fought day two of knock-out competition in Bloemendaal.

It sets up a series of enticing quarter-finals battles on Saturday with Daring set to face Rot Weiss; OZ playing the last Spanish side standing Club Egara; hosts Bloemendaal meeting Dragons and three time champions UHC Hamburg meeting Kampong.

In the first game of the day, Tom and Mats Grambusch helped turn things around to hand Rot Weiss Koln a place in Saturday’s quarter-finals as they came from a goal down to defeat Real Club de Polo in a huge tussle.

Borja Llorens powerful low drag-flick had given the Catalans a ninth minute lead but Rot Weiss were efficient on the counter-attack, winning a penalty corner that Tom Grambusch converted to level things at 1-1 at half-time.

And Mats Grambusch won it with seven minutes to go when he cut in from the right sideline before unleashing an angle reverse-stick shot that snuck through the goalkeeper’s defences.

They are set to face Royal Daring in the next phase after they prevailed, just about, in a shoot-out ahead of English champions Beeston after normal time had ended in a tempestuous 2-2 draw.

Daring had built a 2-0 lead via Alexandre van Linthoudt and Tanguy Cosyns but the Bees got one back just before half-time via a Harry Martin penalty stroke.

And they used the same method late in the game to tie things up with Martin again the scorer after Sam Ward was adjudged to have been fouled by Inaki Alvarez. But the Belgian side won out 4-2 in the shoot-out, Sergi Enrique scoring the critical goal.

Oranje Zwart made hard work of it but eventually got the better of Austria’s SV Arminen to reach the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win courtesy of Niek van der Schoot and Mink van der Weerden.

It was hard work throughout as OZ found it hard to break past a strong defence. Van der Schoot did sneak one past Mateusz Szymczyk in the first half while van der Weerden, from play, thumped home another inside the last two minutes.

Robbert Kemperman and Loick Luypaert supplied a goal in each half to see Kampong complete the quarter-final line-up as they produced a solid 2-0 win over Waterloo Ducks.

The Utrecht side had the greater cutting edge while the Ducks’ best efforts were confounded by David Harte who made some key interventions from their best attacks.

Match 5: Real Club de Polo 1 (B Llorens) Rot Weiss Koln 2 (T Grambusch, M Grambusch)

Match 6: Beeston 2 (H Martin 2) Royal Daring 2 (A van Lindthout, T Cosyns), Daring win 4-2 in a shoot-out

Match 7: Oranje Zwart  (N van der Schoot, Mink van der Weerden) SV Arminen 0

Match 8: Kampong 2 (R Kemperman, L Luypaert) Waterloo Ducks 0

Euro Hockey League media release

Grambusch boys propel Rot Weiss to KO8

Tom and Mats Grambusch helped turn things around to hand Rot Weiss Koln a place in Saturday’s quarter-finals as they came from a goal down to defeat Real Club de Polo in a huge tussle.

Borja Llorens powerful low drag-flick had given the Catalans a ninth minute lead and they looked the side more intent on pushing forward in the first half.

But Rot Weiss were efficient on the counter-attack, winning a penalty corner that Tom Grambusch converted to level things at 1-1 at half-time.

Both sides had their chances to take the lead as time wore on with Xavi Lleonart pushing Polo forward while Rot Weiss also drew good stops from Oriol Fabregas.

And Mats Grambusch won it with seven minutes to go when he cut in from the right sideline before unleashing an angle reverse-stick shot that snuck through the goalkeeper’s defences.

KO16, match 5: Real Club de Polo 1 (B Llorens) Rot Weiss Koln 2 (T Grambusch, M Grambusch)

Euro Hockey League media release

Daring shoot out Beeston in fiesty battle

Royal Daring’s debut EHL season marches on as they prevailed in the KO16, just about, in a shoot-out ahead of English champions Beeston after normal time had ended in a tempestuous 2-2 draw.

Daring did most of their damage in the first half. They took the lead in the eighth minute with a brilliant front to back move with Tanguy Cosyns setting up Alexandre van Linthoudt.

The striker unleashed an excellent low reverse-stick shot for 1-0. It became two when Cosyns rocketed a drag-flick to the top corner in the 31st minute but Beeston got a lifeline when Sam Ward had his stick blocked en route to goal.

It earned a penalty stroke which Harry Martin converted for 1-2 at half-time. They pressed and pressed in the second half but found Pol Garcia-Gascon in great form between the posts.

His saves meant Daring stayed ahead until six minutes from the end when Inaki Alvarez was adjudged to have tackled Ward illegally. He saw a yellow card and Beeston were awarded a second penalty stroke for Martin to slot home.

Amid four yellow cards in the last six minutes, the tie finished level at full-time. That left the shoot-out and ultimate glory for Daring as Cosyns, Fabian Wegnez, Manu Brunet and Sergi Enrique scored while Beeston missed twice.

KO16 Match 6: Beeston 2 (H Martin 2) Royal Daring 2 (A van Lindthout, T Cosyns), Daring win 4-2 in a shoot-out

Euro Hockey League media release

OZ squeeze past the challenge of Arminen

Oranje Zwart made hard work of it but eventually got the better of Austria’s SV Arminen – playing in their first KO16 tie – to reach the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win courtesy of Niek van der Schoot and Mink van der Weerden.

The first half proved even enough in terms of chances with Arminen looking dangerous on the counter attack while Oranje Zwart spurned a quartet of penalty corners.

The Austrian side managed to charge them all down. Niek van der Schoot, however, got the only goal when he jinked through a couple of tackles before nudging a shot at goal and saw the ball, somewhat fortunately, roll in off the back of Mateusz Szymczyk’s pads.

It was rough on the goalkeeper who was superb throughout, especially in a helter-skelter second half. He made one incredible triple save while Jelle Galema and Rob Reckers missed out on some gilt-edge chances.

Arminen almost punished them for their wastefulness but missed out from two corners as OZ went down to nine players and lost the services of Sander Baart to injury.

But the game was made safe inside the final two minutes when Mink van der Weerden took down a diagonal ball, beating a player in the process, and then smashing home with a thud.

KO16, Match 7: Oranje Zwart  (N van der Schoot, Mink van der Weerden) SV Arminen 0

Euro Hockey League media release

Kemperman and Luypaert ease Kampong into KO8

Robbert Kemperman and Loick Luypaert supplied a goal in each half to see Kampong complete the quarter-final line-up as they produced a solid 2-0 win over Waterloo Ducks.

The Utrecht side had the greater cutting edge while the Ducks’ best efforts were confounded by David Harte who made some key interventions from their best attacks.

Kampong’s first goal was a thing of beauty, Thierry Brinkman providing a delicious back-door pass to Rutger Marres who angled a pass to Kemperman to tip in.

Harte saved superbly from Sydney Cabuy from point-blank range a minute later to keep the lead at 1-0 into half-time. The Ducks were also denied an equaliser early in the second half after a video review correctly deemed that the ball touched a Kampong stick in the circle and not one from Waterloo.

Kampong, though, always looked more dangerous, drawing lots of good stops from Arnaud Flamand. Loick Luypaert killed off the tie in the 59th minute when he flicked home a corner, low and true, to make it 2-0.

From there, both sides went close but Kampong were comfortable and can look forward to a KO8 game against  UHC Hamburg on Saturday.

KO16 Match 8: SV Kampong 2 (R Kemperman, L Luypaert) Waterloo Ducks 0

Euro Hockey League media release

Will Irish eyes be smiling? Can Surbiton reign over Spain? Or will Paumen keep on winning?

The stage is set for the stars of the women’s game to shine as the best of the best seek to become champions of Europe.

(Photo: Grant Treeby)

Top female hockey players will be in action this weekend as they bid to lead their teams to club glory. World Cup and Olympic champions Maartje Paumen, Margot van Geffen, Carlien Dirkse van der Heuvel and Lidewij Welten are just some of the players competing in the Euro Hockey Club Championships at Bilthoven, Utrecht.

In a bid to be crowned the best in Europe and take away the €5,000 winning cheque, teams from the Netherlands, England, Spain, Germany, Ireland and Russia will be playing a knockout round on Friday followed by two semi finals and a final on Saturday and Sunday. This is the first time such a format has been used to decide the championship.

All the teams will also receive ranking points depending upon where they finish in the competition, to enable them to qualify for the 2016 event.

There are some enticing and intriguing encounters in store, with some of the best female players in Europe playing in the competition.

Irish club University College Dublin (UCD) are ranked seventh out of the eight teams, but the team has good form in European competition, winning the European Club Championships in Sicily in 2013, and they hope that Irish eyes will be singing when they take on the German league champions KTHC Rot-Weiss Koln.

Netherland’s international star, Carlien Dirkse van der Heuvel, who is playing for Dutch team SCHC, says: “We always play only against other Dutch league clubs. The EHCCC gives us the chance to play against champions from other countries. These are really good team. Our opponents on Friday are the English team Canterbury, who have as many as five internationals in their side. This is a great challenge.”

The other two knock out games are between Club Campo de Madrid and English club Surbiton, whose England and Great Britain stars Georgie Twigg, Holly Webb and Giselle Ansley will be looking to play influential roles; while the host team Hertogenbosch, complete with ace drag flicker Maartje Paumen, take on the challenge from Russia’s CSP Izmailovo.

Captain of the Russian team, Timshina Galina, said: “We are excited to be playing in this competition, against some worthy competition. It should make for some interesting games.”

FIH site

The best for Azlan Shah Cup

By Jugjet Singh

THE Azlan Shah Cup will see all six teams fielding their best players after a long lapse, as preparations for the World League Semi-finals in Belgium and Argentina enter high gear.

Malaysia, Australia and India will be playing in the World League Semi-finals in Belgium, while Canada, New Zealand and South Korea in the Argentina qualifier.

Three teams each from both the Semi-finals are confirmed qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics, but with double qualification from continental tournaments, even finishing fifth can take a team to Ria de Janeiro.

"I expect tough matches as every team will be fielding their best players in preparation for the WL Semi-finals. As hosts, of course we will aim to play in the final, but my end target is getting ready for the WL Semis," said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.

Malaysia were finalists in the last two editions, but lost both 3-2 and 8-3 to Australia.

World No 1 Australia are again the favourites, with Asian Games champions India also the team to beat for the second finals ticket.

World League Round Two Best Player and Top Scorer with 12 goals Faizal Saari received a lifeline, even though he missed two months of trainig after failing to received promised match bonuses since last year.

"We have selected the best available, and all the players are injury free. There are no easy teams in this tournament, and so I expect high quality hockey from all my players like they showed in Singapore," said Beng Hai.

FIXTURES: Sunday -- Australia v Canada (4pm), South Korea v India (6pm), Malaysia v New Zealand (8pm).

April 6: Canada v South Korea (4pm), New Zealand v India (6pm), Malaysia v Australia (8pm).

April 7: REST DAY.

April 8: Canada v New Zealand (4pm), South Korea v Australia (6pm), Malaysia v India (8pm).

April 9: REST DAY.

April 10: Australia v India (4pm), South Korea v New Zealand (6pm), Malaysia v Canada (8pm).

MALAYSIA: Goalkeepers: Roslan Jamaluddin (191 caps), S. Kumar (242); Azreen Rizal (51), Baljit Singh (164), Marhan Jalil (139), Izwan Firdaus (82), Haziq Shamsul (11), Faizal Saari (138), Shahrun Nabil (218), Sukri Mutalib (211), Firhan Ashaari (64), Azlan Misron (336), Nabil Fiqri (140), Razie Rahim (167), Faiz Helmi (51), Meor Azuan (23), Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (192), Ahmad Kazamirul (27), Ramadan Rosli (39), Izad Hakimi (46).

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Faizal's place in hockey squad still pending

By S. Ramaguru

National hockey striker Faizal Saari (second left) celebrates after scoring against Poland in the World League Round Two final in Singapore in January. - Filepic

KUALA LUMPUR: Controversial forward Faizal Saari’s place in the national hockey team is still in doubt.

The final 18 players were supposed to be named after a training match with New Zealand last night but team officials have decided to defer the decision.

There are currently 20 players in the training squad.

The players in the mix for the drop are Areen Rizal, Izwan Firdaus and Mohamed Ramadan Rosli.

Faizal could also be one of them but as team manager Nur Azmie Ahmad said earlier, the player is much needed in the team.

The Terengganu player only started training two weeks ago after settling his issues with the national association.

Team officials are of the opinion that Faizal needs top quality matches to get himself back into the groove for the more important assignment ahead – the World Hockey League Semi-final in June.

National coach, Tai Beng Hai used all 20 players in the 0-1 friendly loss to New Zealand on Thursday night, with the World Hockey League meet in mind.

“There are six top matches at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and we want to ensure the players gain from the experience. That is also the reason why we may include Faizal in the squad," said Beng Hai.

"He needs these matches to get into top condition and gel with his team-mates. Our plan is to have at least 14 to 15 matches under our belt before the World Hockey League in Belgium.

And with the top teams playing in Ipoh, I am sure it will benefit us greatly,” he added.

The Malaysians open their campaign against New Zealand on Sunday and take on defending champions Australia the next day.

Meanwhile, skipper Mohamed Razie Rahim, who injured his thumb during training on Sunday, has been cleared to play in Ipoh.

Malaysia have been the losing finalists for the last two years going down to Australia on both occasions.

In 2009, Beng Hai led Malaysia to the final but lost to India.

The Star of Malaysia

Dwyer on brink of record-breaking return to international stage

As the teams line up for the Sultan Azlan Cup, a familiar name is on the team sheet

(Photo: Treebyimages)

The 24th edition of the Sultan Azlan Cup, which takes place from 5-12 April, will have extra poignancy as it is the first edition of the event since the passing away of Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah in May last year. The late Shah was a huge supporter of the event and hockey generally.

On a brighter note, the event also signals the return to action of Australian World Cup winners Jamie Dwyer and Glenn Turner after a 10 month absence from the national team. If Dwyer plays, he will become the most capped Australian hockey player of all time.

For the teams participating at Ipoh, Malaysia, this year, there will be added frisson as it is the last major international before the Hockey World League Semi Finals in June. This year’s participants – holders Australia, hosts Malaysia, New Zealand, Korea, India and Canada – are all competing in the HWL Semi Finals.

The opening match will see the holders and number one ranked team in the world, Australia, take on the ever-improving Canadian team. Korea will then take on the high-flying India team and New Zealand will feel the heat of the crowd when they face the hosts in the third game of the day.

The tournament is played on a round robin basis, with the final day of competition seeing the teams play off for final placings.

India’s new head coach Paul van Ass is fielding a very experienced side: within the squad, only goalkeeper Harjot Singh and forward Satbir Singh have less than 20 international caps, with six players earning more than 100 caps and captain Sardar Singh on 206 caps.

Canada come into the tournament with the lowest ranking (15) but will be hoping to build on their success at the HWL Round Two event, which saw them qualify for the HWL Semi Finals in June later this year. Scott Tupper will be missing from the line-up as he is on club duty in Belgium, but experienced defender Adam Froese, who recently celebrated 100 caps for the national team, will step into Tupper’s shoes as captain.

The Kookaburras, who have won this tournament eight times, will welcome back Jamie Dwyer and Glenn Turner to the fold. Neither player has been in the side since the 2014 World Cup. If Dwyer plays he will have notched up a record number of 322 appearances.

Head coach Graham Reid has brought in two new faces to the Australian goal. Leon Hayward has been recently selected as a senior squad ‘keeper and this will be his first major tournament, while Tristan Clemons has been promoted from the national development squad.

For Black Sticks goalkeeper, Devon Manchester, the Sultan Azlan Cup provides an opportunity to work on his match fitness after being sidelined through injury for six months. The goalkeeper, who has had surgery on a recurring shoulder injury, says he is apprehensive about the challenge ahead but is determined to get back to the number one slot.

With an FIH world ranking of eight, Korea has a good record at this competition. The Asian team has come third in the previous two editions, won gold twice and been silver medallists on four occasions. Like all the other participants, Korea will also be using the Sultan Azlan Cup as preparation for the forthcoming HWL Semi Finals.

The home team, Malaysia, will be hoping they can go one better than last year’s edition, when they were beaten comprehensively by Australia in the final. The home team led the medal table until the final day of competition, before a Chris Cirello masterclass in penalty corners destroyed the hopes of the players and the packed stadium of supporters.

FIH site

Internal competition driving Canada at 2015 Azlan Shah Cup

Canada opens the tournament Sunday morning against Australia

Shaheed Devji

Usually when entering any tournament, the goal is to have success. For the Men’s National Field Hockey Team at the 2015 Sultan Azlan Shah in Ipoh, Malaysia success will be measured differently than normal.

As the team prepares for its shot at 2016 Olympic qualification at the World League Semi-Finals (or World League 3) in Buenos Aires, Argentina in June, playing some of the best field hockey teams in the world starting this weekend in Malaysia is the perfect time and place to evaluate talent.

“The performances in this tournament are going to go a long way towards selection in World League 3,” says Men’s National Team head coach Anthony Farry.

While Farry and the coaching staff are coming off seeing their top squad compete – and compete well – at World League Round 2 in California in March, the Azlan Shah tournament will provide a different opportunity.

With captain Scott Tupper and veteran Mark Pearson on club duty in Belgium, and the hulking Matthew Guest and young stars Gordon Johnston and Paul Wharton recovering from injury, many players other players who either just made or did not make the World League 2 team will be given the chance to show they belong in an environment with the world’s best.

“For us it’s not about placing at this tournament,” Farry adds. “It’s about having a look at some of the guys that pushed for World League 2 that maybe didn’t get the opportunity.”

“This one is about us having a look at what we do, having a look at the makeup of our team, what team can have an impact at World League 3, and give us the best chance at qualifying for the Olympics.”

At the twenty-fourth edition of the Azlan Shah Cup, which begins Sunday, Canada faces four of the world’s top ten ranked teams in Australia (world no.1), New Zealand (world no.7), Korea (world no.8), and India (world no.9).

Additionally, they will face the host Malaysians who have always given Canada a run for its money, as recently as last year at the 2014 Champions Challenge, where Canada beat the host team in the shootout in the tournament semifinal thanks to a game-winning goal from defender Adam Froese.

“We’re missing some guys in this tournament, but its going to be a really good opportunity for some other guys on the fringe to just really show themselves and get that experience against teams that they might not necessarily face,” says the 23 year-old Froese, who was born in Malaysia and will be serving as team captain in Tupper’s absence. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. A tournament like this is completely different from a lot of tournaments you get to go to. It’s going to be an experience for all of us as a group.”

Canada opens the tournament on Sunday morning against the World No. 1 team, Australia. The game is set to begin at 1:10am PT/4:10am ET. The next day, Canada takes on Korea, which defeated Canada in the 2014 Champions Challenge final.

Field Hockey Canada media release

India will look to test young talent at Azlan Shah Cup

READY FOR THE CAMPAIGN: The Indian hockey team is all set to leave for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in New Delhi on Thursday.

With a new coach in charge at the beginning of a new international season, the Indian men’s hockey team leaves for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Friday early morning.

And the team is confident of starting its preparations for the Rio Olympics on a successful note.

The tournament, from April 5 to 12 in Ipoh, will see the Asian champion take on Korea in its opening match in the six-team event that also features Australia, New Zealand, Canada and host Malaysia.

This will be the first assignment for new coach Paul van Ass.

“This is a very capable unit and can give a tough time to any opponent. The players are hungry to win and open to newer challenges. We are concentrating on making sure we not only attack but are also prepared for counter-attacks. I am expecting a very good start,” van Ass said on the eve of the team’s departure.

Given that all of India’s international assignments till the Olympics next year will be more a preparation for the big event without any pressure of qualification, it is expected that the upcoming tournament will be used as a testing ground for the younger players. However, the selection committee has picked the strongest Indian side in a bid to keep them match fit for the World League semifinals in June.

“We know there is no pressure to qualify but we also have to make sure that our best players are ready for the World League semifinals. That will be a major tournament and big test of where we actually stand. And since there is no other competitive event between this and that, we picked a strong side for the Azlan Shah,” High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans said.

The 18-member squad will be led by Sardar Singh, who struggled for form towards the end of last year after shouldering the bulk of responsibility throughout 2014.

The midfielder insisted he had recovered completely and was raring to go.

“The team is confident with the new coach emphasising on our strengths and working on improving our game technically,” Sardar said.

The Hindu

Expect a good start to my India stint, says van Ass

India skipper Sardar Singh during a training session at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. AFP

New Delhi - In his maiden assignment as chief coach, Dutchman Paul van Ass expects his wards to give a “good start” to his stint in the 24th Azlan Shah Cup and has said the Sardar Singh-led side has the capability of taking on new challenges.

For van Ass, who took over the reigns of the team from Australian Terry Walsh just three weeks ago, the Azlan Shah Cup is his first opportunity to look at the composition of the Indian side in a competitive set-up.

Besides Asian Games gold medallist India, world champions Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea and hosts Malaysia will fight it out for the top honours in the prestigious Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh from April 5-12. “This is a very capable team and as a unit they can give a tough time to the opponents on any given day. During the Champions Trophy they showcased they are hungry to win and open to take on newer challenges,” van Ass said before departing for Ipoh. “This is my first assignment and I am expecting a very good start. In the last few days I have tried to understand each player’s way of playing and have tried to guide them to improve on certain aspects,” he said.

Captain Sardar Singh said the team is confident of displaying a good show in the tournament under the new coach. “The team is upbeat and confident under the new chief coach. In the training sessions he has taught us to keep working on our strengths. He highlights our strengths and has guided us on how to work on our weaknesses,” Sardar said. India will open their campaign against Korea on April 5

Eves looking forward to playing Australia, China

Up for the challenge that awaits them in the Hawke’s Bay Cup, Indian women’s hockey team vice-captain Deepika said they were looking forward to the clashes against higher-ranked Australia and China in the eight-nation tournament to be held from April 11 to 19. “I am excited and look forward to the upcoming challenge.I am awaiting for our clashes against China and Australia. They will be tough opponents but I am excited to play against them. Playing against teams who are stronger than you always makes you give that extra in the game. Also with a strong defence line, I am confident we will not allow the opponents to break our defence chain easily,” Deepika said. Besides India, the tournament will also feature China, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Korea, USA and hosts New Zealand. India will meet China in their opening game on April 11.

The Tribune

Looking forward to games against Australia, China: Deepika

NEW DELHI: Up for the challenge that awaits them in the Hawke's Bay Cup, Indian women's hockey team vice-captain Deepika today said they were looking forward to the clashes against higher-ranked Australia and China in the eight-nation tournament to be held from April 11 to 19.

"I am excited and look forward to the upcoming challenge. I am awaiting for our clashes against China and Australia. They will be tough opponents but I am excited to play against them. Playing against teams who are stronger than you always makes you give that extra in the game.

"Also with a strong defence line, I am confident we will not allow the opponents to break our defence chain easily," Deepika said.

Besides India, the tournament will also feature China, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Korea, USA and hosts New Zealand.

India will meet China in their opening game on April 11.

The Times of India

SAI approves Ahrens as women’s coach

Less than a week after Hockey India submitted a revised proposal for the appointment of the chief women’s coach, the Sports Authority of India has cleared Mathias Ahrens for the job.

The Canadian was second on the shortlist submitted by the federation to replace Neil Hawgood. New Zealand’s Anthony Thornton was finalised as first choice but was unable to join due to medical issues.

SAI director-general Injeti Srinivas confirmed that the government had no objection to Ahrens. “We have already conveyed our approval to the federation. Now, how soon he joins and the completion of formalities are something they have to work out,” Srinivas told The Hindu.

HI President Narinder Batra said: “The SAI’s decision is welcome and we will now try to get Ahrens as soon as possible. (High Performance Director) Roelant Oltmans is co-ordinating the appointment, and from what I have been told, Ahrens has already confirmed his willingness to take up the job. We are open to flying him directly to New Zealand to join the team there (at the Hawkes Bay Cup tournament from April 11 to 19) if he is available immediately.”

Ahrens is currently technical director of junior hockey with Vancouver Hawks and is looking after the under-18 development programme there.

If he is unable to join the team immediately after the formalities are over, Ahrens will begin training the girls here for the World League semifinals, to be held in Belgium in June.

The Hindu

OTHL Founder: This is Nobel Prize for us hockey volunteers

s2h Team

HI President Presenting HI President's Outstanding achievement Award to K. Arumugam, founder and CEO of One Thousand Hockey Legs

“This is Nobel Prize for us,hockey volunteers”, says K. Arumugam, the founder of uniquely titled Project ‘One Thousand Hockey Legs’ upon receiving Hockey India President’s Outstanding Achievement award for the Year 2014 in a glittering function last week end at the hands of none other than the HI President Dr. Narendra Dhruv Batra himself.

Hockey India celebrated its last year’s hockey activities with a high-end bang, ‘Hockey India Annual Awards’ function on Saturday, the 28th March with much fanfare in the Lalit, a five-star destination by now for Delhi hockey community.

“I did not expect. It was a pleasant surprise. When my name came I thought am one of the nominees. It took someone sitting nearby to make me understand I am the winner and called to the dais” visibly elated K. Arumugam, Founder and CEO of the NGO, recollects the winning moments for the benefit of s2h readers.

“I just thrust my Tab into the hands of a journalist sitting next to me and rushed to the dais, amidst a chorus of applause especially from women hockey team whom I cut through on way to the hugely lit podium”.

Living legend Dhanraj Pillay with Jr. India chief coach Harendra Singh

“If I sit back and remember the award, it is like Nobel Prize for me. Because, this is by far the biggest recognition for my work”.

“With this, most people who do not take my work seriously and for some who do not understand my work, will consider my strange but significant project with the seriousness it deserved”

“My passion of starting and running hockey teams in schools -- especially where low profile and poor kids study -- in a structured way has been recognized. I am extremely happy, happy for me, happy for my kids, and volunteers”.

Best Player of the Year 2014 award winner Vandana Kataria

He dwelt a length on why and how the award is different and significant in the evolution of first-ever pan Indian hockey NGO in India.

“Normally, India has a habit of recognizing its own achievers only after some other countries did, like recent Nobel prize winner from India. In my case, hockey’s own parent body has honoured me, recognized my work in such a grand way as it had been, that too in front of both men and women nationals teams, famed coaches and former players including triple Olympian Balbir Singh. What more did I need?”, asks the grateful winner.

“It’s a home award in front of home audience, and it is great”, Arumugam elaborates on how he considers the significance of the conferment of the award.

Lifetime Achievement award winner legendary Balbir Singh Doshanj and HI CEO Elena Norman

The NGO Hockey Citizen Group was started in December 2008, months after two incidents. First, India’s failure to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, which many in India considers a Black Day for Indian sports. Secondly, the author of 13 books suffering a heart-attack and undergone angiography.

Surviving a heart-attack Arumugam dedicated his second life to hockey, and added the NGO feather in his cap, the other self-declared responsibility being Author, Publisher, Photographer, hockey-traveler and editor of www.stick2hockey.com.

This is how both personal incident and a national tragedy combined together to pave way for the birth of One Thousand Hockey Legs, the first project of his NGO, Hockey Citizen Group.

Besides K. Arumugam, his pals V. Ravichandran & PK Mohan and volunteer Shashank Gupta are the others in the trust registered in Delhi.

After Dronacharya coach Harendra Singh was adjudged the Coach of the Year, came the turn of announcing Outstanding Achievement.

The award carried a beautiful trophy, a cheque of Rs.5 lacs (USD 7700), a tricolour traditional shawl, besides a citation.

On asked whom he would like to dedicate the award, pat came the reply: “My hockey kids, who never complain of minimum things I provide, volunteers and my family”.

Indian women hockey team members relish the OTHL award

The geologist turned journalist turned historian turned author feels the first step to revive hockey traditions in India is to bring hockey culture in schools.

“It serves two purposes: improve hockey in schools and uplift the profile of socially weaker and disadvantaged kids”.

He candidly agrees the second part is one that drives him most at present.

On the strange name One Thousand Hockey Legs, his perspective is as under:

“I want to get reminded of my target all the time, because I want to achieve my target at any cost”, he doesn’t mince words.

The target the NGO chief means is bringing 500 new kids to the ambit of hockey in each city of India. However, in practice only 20 polished boys or girls from single school counted per school, though the school may have three age group teams (Sub-Jr, Junior and Senior).

“The idea is to start and run hockey teams in at least 25 schools in each city. Delhi, where I live, is the first city to achieve the target, and its not a mere coincidence the NGO got the award in the here (Delhi)”.

According to the founder, the following are the five major milestones for the OTHL since started exactly six years ago.

1. Hockey India’s affiliation that enabled the NGO to field its combined team in the Sub-Junior National Championships. Year 2013.

2. Three boys getting selected for Delhi State team for the Junior National Championship. Year 2015.

3. Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru Hockey Tournament Society’s invitation to field its combined team in Sub-Junior and Junior competitions. Year 2012.

4. Delhi’s top-end school principal’s offer of free education and admission to two OTHL students after she witnessed one of our OTHL teams winning colourful Modernite Tournament. Year 2013.

5. Getting 80G and 12 A certificates from Income Tax Deptt besides registration thus becoming a rare hockey organization in India that stands strict scrutiny from legal and procedure angles.

Though he thanks many people and organizations in his schools hockey journey, one can surmise the following as most important ones.

OTHL boys relishing a goal

Dr. Narendra Dhruv Batra for not only conferring the award to the NGO but also conceptualizing it. Many thought this category of award is meant for players, coaches or HI’s State Associations. But he saw hockey beyond routine, included wide section of hockey community such as this NGO. This is a good thinking.

The entire machinery of Hockey India, who always accord enormous support and sympathy for the NGO in dealing various aspects.

Volunteer like Himanshu Dhiman (IIT Bombay hockey team captain, who did not hesitate to offer Rs.1 lac demand draft when Sports Authority of India came out with a Community Connect Scheme and the NGO did not have the kind of money to apply. The earnest money is struck with SAI is a different matter though.

Best Player of the year 2014 award winner Birendra Lakra with OTHL mentor

Arjuna award winner Viren Rasquinha, only player so far, to come forward on his own and present a cheque of Rs.10k; Dronacharya award winner Harendra Singh --who always speak high of the NGO -- and presented a video camera to kids to improve coaching; volunteer Shashank Gupta without whose zeal we could not have opened many frontiers; ever reliable Olympian MK Kaushik, who got the NGO its first school in otherwise stubborn Delhi; IITian Prashanth Pinnamaneni, who just came to meet my son and his friend at home but turned out to be a serious volunteer who ran Delhi Half-marathon for fund-raising; Pragya Srivastava and Anup Tiwari who do designs for us for almost no fee; the duo of V. Ravichandran and PK Mohan who donated fixed amount in the first three formative years; Dronacharya AK Bansal and national stadium coaches for throwing gates of National Stadium open in the first year of Delhi OTHL; Youngster Param, a casual onlooker during our public park practices who later turned out to be our Tally-man who charges nothing for his services but a T-shirt; Manoj Gupta, a hockey fan who does auditing and Income Tax related works for free since five years; OTHL Fan Harsimran Virk, volunteer Navneet Tyagi, a long standing associate, Rakhee Sharma for a brisk and brief spell, Principal Anil Kispotta and PTI Kulwinder Singh of Saket and Begumpur schools respectively and many more.

”My wife Shanthi Natarajan, daughter and son are pillars of strength of whatever I do, and they deserve every bit of adulation that comes my way. I steal their times for my works”

On future he envisions bringing quality to the quantity he able to garner so far in all the five cities the NGO operates.

Bringing quality into the NGO boys is a multi-faceted task. It entails proper infrastructure, fitness program, upscale equipment, sincere and competent coaches.

“This multi-task is an uphill task, but achievable. We have got right kind of motivation with this award to take up sterner tasks”, concludes the optimistic hockey soul, whose NGO has so far introduced about 2400 kids to the sport of hockey and has got the biggest recognition last Saturday in a star-studded function.


Hockey at crossroads as camp closed due to shortage of funds

Kashif Abbasi

Alarming shortage of funds has wrapped up national team’s training camp set up for the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: In a highly upsetting development for the national sport, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) owing to what it describes alarming shortage of funds has wrapped up national team’s training camp set up for the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.

The one-month camp had been in progress here at the Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium. However, due to paucity of funds and poor state of the venue, the PHF ended the camp on Thursday, 10 days before the scheduled time.

“The camp has been postponed in view of the bitter fact that the PHF has no funds to pay daily allowance to the participating players. We will review our financial condition in the coming days and then will decide whether to continue the camp,” PHF secretary Rana Mujahid said.

A source in the PHF said besides the financial crunch, the Astro Turf of the Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium was not fit for the game as eight players got injuries.

After funds were arranged the camp would likely be set up at the Johar Town Hockey Ground in Lahore from April 10, he added.

Despite knowing well the importance of the camp for the players preparing for the Olympic qualifiers, Mujahid regretted that the PHF was left with no other option but to end it.

“The closure of the camp will not only badly affect the players’ preparation, it will also be considered a great setback to the national game which won silver medals in the Asian Games and the Champions Trophy last year,” he lamented.

It is relevant to note here that a cash-strapped PHF has been striving to get a chance to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the PHF patron. However, so far, the prime minister could not spare time for the meeting from his busy schedule. So far, four scheduled meetings of the prime minister with the players and the PHF have been postponed.

“The players are disappointed, for we were expecting to meet the prime minister and that he will order for an immediate release of funds to prepare the team for the international events. Let alone international events, now we have no funds to run training camps,” he said with a depressed voice.

“By utilising borrowed money we tried to run the camp but now the borrowed money has [also] ended,” Mujahid said, adding that despite having minimum resources the team produced brilliant performance at the Asian Games and the Champions Trophy.

It is instructive to note here that the PHF last year moved a summary to the prime minister for the release of a bailout package of Rs500 million but the matter remained unattended, lying either in the Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office.

Meanwhile, a senior national player, commenting on the bleak scenario for hockey, said people at the helm of affairs had been making mockery of the national game.

“We are very disappointed, this is a sad day for us as our camp has been closed due to financial constraint,” the player, who requested anonymity, said.

Talking to Dawn, national team head coach Shahnaz Sheikh said financial crisis as well as poor condition of the ground had forced PHF to close the camp.

“The government should immediately release the bail-out package to keep the national game alive,” the head coach appealed, whose hard work produced impressive results at the Asiad and the Champions Trophy.

Shahnaz said if provided with the required budget, the current lot of players had the potential to fare much better in contests anywhere in the world.

On April 28, he added, the team would leave for Australia to feature in a four-nation tournament. Then, after returning home, the team will head to Korea on May 14. While, on June 5, the team will leave for Europe to play six test matches against the US, Ireland and France.

Then finally, the green-shirts will play the Olympic qualifying round in Belgium from June 20. Ten teams, including Pakistan, Australia, India, Malaysia and Belgium will participate in the qualifiers.

Commenting on the Astro Turf at the Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium, the coach confirmed that during the first 18 days of training at least eight players got injuries due to the poor state of the turf.

Shahnaz said due to slippery and hard condition of the turf the players suffered injuries. “We have taken up this issue with the Pakistan Sports Board,” he said.

When contacted, DG Technical PSB Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera said efforts were being made to repair the turf.


Lack of funds forces PHF to shut down national training camp

LAHORE: Lack of funds has forced the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to temporarily shut down its national training camp that was in progress at Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium in Islamabad for preparation of a strong Pakistan hockey team for participation in the qualifying round for the Rio Olympics 2016 to be held in Belgium in June this year. “The camp has been closed till April 10 as we do not have sufficient funds to pay our national players,” lamented PHF secretary general Rana Mujahid Ali on Thursday. Mujahid said the PHF would review its financial condition in the coming days and would decide whether to continue or close the camp permanently. If the PHF failed to continue the camp then it will be a big setback for the national sport of Pakistan, which is facing severe financial crunch and the government is doing nothing to save it from going to the dogs.

Mujahid said keeping in view the preparation for the Olympics 2016 Qualifiers, the camp was very important for national players. “The closer of the camp will not only badly affect the preparation of the Pakistan team, who won two silvers in the Asian Games and the Champions Trophy last year, but will also hit the confidence of players,” he maintained. It is interesting to note that the PHF was not able to provide national players with proper preparation for two mega international events owing to financial constraints, but the low-profile Pakistan outfit surprised all and sundry with their stunning performances.

The PHF, led by former Olympians Chaudhary Akhtar Rasool and Mujahid Ali, is continuing in its struggle to get the federal government funds for smooth functioning of the national federation but in vain. Due to country’s obsession with cricket these days, Pakistan hockey, which remained up in the clouds for more than three decades, has been relegated to the background due to the Pakistan government’s indifferent attitude towards the national sport. On the other hand, our neighbour India in recent years has taken a giant leap in promoting its sports, injecting millions of dollars into cricket, hockey, badminton, tennis, football and kabaddi. They have started staging international leagues attracting world-class players. All this is helping India tremendously to elevate itself in the international sports arena. Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan is exactly the opposite as the federal government lacks the required level of interest to involve the nation in sporting activities. Instead the Pakistan government is more interested in squandering billions of rupees on worthless projects. The crisis in hockey has not been addressed by the Pakistan government for quite some time. If immediate measures are not taken by the Pakistan government then we should prepare ourselves for the worst.

The Daily Times

Pathetic turf forces PHF shift hockey camp to Lahore

Mohsin Ali

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hockey team head coach and manager Olympian Shahnaz Shiekh has termed Naseer Bunda astro-turf as nightmare and decided to immediately shift camp from Islamabad to Lahore from April 12.

Talking to The Nation, Shahnaz said: “I am highly satisfied with the facilities, accommodation, meal and other stuff provided by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and want to say a big thanks to the PSB Director General Technical and Training Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera and assistant director hostels Malik Imtiaz Hussain for taking extra care of us, but I am deeply disappointed with the astro-turf which is not less than a nightmare for us. I have lost nine key players due to injuries and can't afford further. On the very first day, two players were injured, so I requested DDG technical Agha Amjedullah to update the turf, I must appreciate his hard work and dedication, he did a tremendous job by doing his utmost to turn the turf into much better condition, but it has lost its shape and should have been replaced as earlier as possible.

“I request the PSB DG, IPC minister to immediately replace the astro-turf with new one, or the venue will remain empty for years as no one can take risk of playing or even practice at such a pathetic turf which causes a number of injuries to the players. Out of nine players, two were very seriously injured. We have to depart to Hobart to play four-nation hockey tournament in Australia and soon after that we have to play in Korea in five-match series and after that the highly significant Olympic Qualifiers will start from June 20 to July 6 in Belgium. A number of events are just round the corner,” he added.

“With very heavy heart, I informed the federation about the harsh fact about the turf and players’ injuries and the federation granted me permission to shift the camp to Lahore from April 12. We have given rest to players so they may heel their injuries till 12th, by that time, I hope the players will be fresh and free from injuries and we will continue the camp till our departure to Australia,” Shahnaz asserted.

Talking to The Nation, PHF secretary Olympian Rana Mujahid said: “The camp has been postponed in view of the bitter fact that the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has no funds to pay to the players, attending the training camp, as daily allowance. We will review our financial condition in the coming days and will decide whether to continue or close the camp.”

“Keeping in view of the preparation for the Olympics-2016, the camp is very important for the national players, the closer of the camp will not only badly affect the preparation of the Pakistan team but also a great setback to the national game which has won two silvers in the Asian Games and the Champions Trophy last year. Further, its closure will badly harm the confidence of the players, so we request Prime Minister Mian M Nawaz Sharif to safe our blushes and order release of grant so we may concentrate on future plans,” Mujahid concluded.

The Nation

Hockey camp put on hold for a week

By Nabil Tahir

KARACHI: The Pakistan hockey team’s training camp for a string of international assignments was put on hold due to an increasing list of injured players and will now resume on April 10 at the Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium in Islamabad.

According to head coach Shahnaz Sheikh, the management and coaches decided to break camp for a week after as many as 10 players became unfit to play.

“Ten out of 33 players were injured during training due to the poor condition of the Astroturf,” Sheikh told The Express Tribune. “The original plan was to give the players a week off to rest after April 15. However, that break is being given now rather than later as there is no use of a training camp without so many players.”

The coach said that the injured players include Arsalan Qadir, Muhammad Irfan, Mubashir Ali, Imran Butt, Umair Rana, Abu Bakar, Sharjeel, Nawaz, Kashif Ali and Ammad Shakeel Butt.

The team has been training since March 16 for a one-month camp, after which trials for the upcoming Four-Nation tournament in Australia were to take place on April 15.

“Now the trials will be held two days before schedule on April 12, while the camp will remain in progress till team’s the departure to Australia on April 28,” said Sheikh.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has shifted the camp to Johar Town Hockey Stadium in Lahore to avoid further injuries.

The Express Tribune

Ireland Men launch partnership with Dundrum Town Centre

Hockey Ireland are delighted to announce a new partnership between the Ireland Men’s team and Dundrum Town Centre, fresh from their victory at the Hockey World League Round 2 in San Diego. This support comes at an exciting time for the Ireland Men as they progress on their road to Rio 2016. Next up is World League Round 3 in Belgium where they will compete for an Olympic spot. The partnership with Dundrum Town Centre is a real boost in helping the Ireland Men maintain their levels of international success.

“We are delighted to welcome Dundrum on board in what is a crucial year for the Ireland Men’s Hockey as they, along with Women’s team, aim to become the first Irish team sport to qualify for the Olympics” said Mike Heskin, Hockey Ireland CEO.

Irish Hockey Association media release

Hockey is on board, are you?

April 6 is a day to celebrate the ideals of the Olympic Movement, so we take a moment to see how hockey is playing its part

(Photo: FIH)

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is a key fixture in the calendar of the Olympic Movement because it is a day that celebrates more than sporting excellence – it is a day recognising that sport can be used as a vehicle for peace and development.

Hockey, which has been an Olympic sport since 1908, has embraced this side of the Olympic Movement in a series of projects across the globe. Driven by a desire to give back to the community, hockey players past and present are involved in activities that range from addressing health problems such as HIV or cancer to promoting education and improving quality of life or empowering groups of people: the young, the poor, the elderly, women or people with disabilities.

Looking back four years to a time when the world was gearing itself up to London 2012, we can see this adherence to the Olympic ideal was gathering momentum and, to the credit of hockey players and hockey communities everywhere, the momentum has increased in velocity and can be seen in projects throughout the world. Here are a few examples.

Back in 2011, the FreFlyers were formed in the same London Borough that would be transformed for those heady weeks of July and August 2012. The FreFlyers were a group of kids from poor backgrounds who joined together to receive coaching from the Great Britain hockey players and their coaching staff, a project driven by the Great Britain team manager Andy Halliday.

Fast forward to today and the FreFlyers are a thriving hockey club, playing competitive hockey, about to gain league status and having enjoyed two hockey tours to the Netherlands. The children, have gained self-respect, knowledge about their own health and fitness and, for some, a career in sport.

Santi Freixa, the former Spanish player and current coach of the Spanish national team, and Andreu Enrich, who both won the 2004 Champions Trophy with Spain, head a charity in India called Stick for India.

Andreu explains what the project aims to achieve: “Our mission is to use hockey as a social development tool for the children in the rural area of Anantapur, India. We are sponsoring more than 45 schools and two hockey academies, one for boys and one for girls. In total more than 1,200 players are practising hockey regularly.”

Not only is Stick for India raising the standard of the game in the area, it is also giving these children regular meals, an education and an awareness of how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Another collaboration between European hockey players and developing nations is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya. Here, Dutch businessman Erik van der Dussen has used his considerable contacts with players and coaches in the Netherlands to help spearhead, fund and run a project working with children in Nairobi.

Every Saturday, Erik, along with Tom Olal of the Kenyan Hockey Union, runs coaching courses for 30 boys and girls. Not only do the children get insight into healthy living and the importance of exercise, but they get the chance to socialise in a relaxed setting, to develop skills and self-confidence, and at the end of the session they get a hot meal.

Erik’s club in the Netherlands, Breda, contributed balls, sticks, socks and shin-pads as the children initially wore nothing on their feet to play the game.

A different example, but one that underpins the Olympic ideal of development, can be seen in Trinidad and Tobago. Kwan Browne was a student with exceptional hockey skills when he was offered a sports scholarship in England. He accepted and moved to England, where he is now heavily involved in coaching the men’s national team as well as head coach at Canterbury Hockey Club. But Kwan has never forgotten his roots, and as well as regular trips back to Trinidad and Tobago to run coaching clinics and to help develop the national team, he also paved the way for other young hockey players to gain a university education in England.

Kwan recently celebrated 300 caps with Trinidad and Tobago and this summer will be part of the team hoping to win at the Pan-American Games and book a ticket to the Olympics in 2016.

While projects such as the FreFlyers and Stick for India are occurring everywhere, there is another side to hockey that should be celebrated as part of this International Day of Sport for Development and Peace and that is the make-up of the game itself.

Hockey is a truly gender-neutral sport. It is the one sport where, at international level, the men and women get equal billing. At the 2014 Hockey World Cup, the women’s matches were aired on television as much as the men’s games. The stadium was packed whether it was a women’s match or a men’s match, the players receive equal coverage and play the game in exactly the same way.

And that equality extends to age groups as well. Where many other sports tend to be the domain of 18-35-year-olds, with any older players being seen as a ‘rarity’, hockey players can keep playing and competing to whatever level they choose. The International Masters Hockey Association organises international matches at every age group from 35 – 60 and the World Grand Masters Association organises international matches at every age group from 60+.  At the 2014 Hockey World Cup, an equivalent Masters event for men and women ran at the same time.

So, with less than 500 days to go until Rio 2016,  whether it is through social development, breaking down barriers or promoting equality, the hockey community both supports and embodies the ideals as laid down by Pierre de Coubertin and the Olympic Movement.

FIH site

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