Kenya is a wonderful country with so much potential. The climate is good, the land fertile and lush, and the people friendly and hospitable. However, if you have anything to do with designing or building roads or sorting out traffic – they need you in Kenya! The birds (feathered) and game are unbelievable.
By Steve Jaspan
But I’m not Kenya’s Minister of Tourism – rather an interested observer especially about hockey. So what were my impressions of the African Olympic Qualifier, the African Hockey Federation Congress, Executive Board meetings, etc.
Firstly, the gap between South Africa and Egypt and then Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria’s men’s teams is closing. There is so little to choose between South Africa and Egypt – the final could have gone either way and I felt desperately sorry for the Egyptians who had the better of large parts of the game. Bear in mind Egypt had also won the pool game. But Kenya’s 0 – 0 draw with Egypt, Ghana’s 1-1 result also against Egypt, South Africa’s tough 2-0 win against Kenya and the latter edging Ghana 4-3 in a very exciting bronze medal match illustrates that the gap is closing. I reckon that’s great for African hockey and World hockey at large. How I hope the terrible socio-economic and political situation can be resolved in Zimbabwe so that their hockey can return to its former glory – it will make African Hockey even stronger.
The gutsy Ugandan Team were a revelation and it was great to see them competing again at this level. They improved with every game but need support with coaching, equipment, etc. To this end tribute must be paid to South African and other players who contributed sticks to them. The artificial surface in Kampala should be a fantastic boost to their hockey.
I must say that Olympic Solidarity and FIH assistance in coaching of the Kenyan, Ghanaian and Nigerian teams clearly showed and this initiatives as well as the Orange Black Club in Eindhoven, Holland holding a tournament before the qualifiers was fantastic. The Dutch coaches were able to bring about rapid improvement with the fantastic natural talent of the players.
From the women’s perspective I’m not as convinced the gap is closing but it was good to see Kenya’s re-emergence. My heart went out to Zimbabwe women’s team – a very young team with average age 20 – who heroically came to the tournament and tried their hearts out. Namibia’s Women Team likewise deserve credit. Why could these women’s teams make it but not their men’s teams?
Next time it would be great to have 8 teams in the Africa Cup for Nations (2009) which hopefully will be staged on Ghana’s new waterbased pitch in Accra. I thought the Kenya Hockey Union did a fine job in organizing the tournament. Staging the Africa Cup of Club Champions earlier this year clearly helped to oil the organizational machinery after such a long layoff without major activity given the absence of a decent artificial surface. But hockey is now back in Kenya with a bang!!
The Congress saw elections and the only significant changes being Resham Bains (President of the Kenya Hockey Union) as new 2nd Vice President and Nii Quaye-Kumah (Ghana) as new Secretary General. Oko Nikoi-Dzani and Gavin Stephens formerly in these positions remain on the Executive. To these two gentlemen thanks for your tremendous efforts for African hockey. To the new appointments well done and good luck – you have a hard act to follow!
Our thanks to Clare Digby who arranged a Technical Seminar with some 25 delegates and hopefully the spin-off in all the participating countries will be seen. Clearly it is incumbent upon delegates to run courses in their countries so Africa can produce a new crop of technical officials. We already have some top class officials but we need to ensure that they have international exposure.
Umpiring-wise the tournament revealed promise with some new young umpires but this is another area that needs particular attention and once again our umpires need more opportunities on the world stage. We even have some young international umpires in their mid 20s.
So there was much to be excited about and we must ensure we continue the momentum to grow Hockey in Africa - it needs more energy and determination to achieve our goals.
It was great having FIH President Els van Breda Vriesman and EHF President Leandro Negre in Nairobi. Their support of African Hockey has been wonderful.
ASANTE SANA KENYA HOCKEY UNION!
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