The 7th National Intercity Games of the People’s Republic of China saw ten Chinese provinces compete in a two-pool tournament over nine days. This year the games were held in Dalian in the Liaoning province, Northeast China, although the hockey tournament was held about an hour south of Dalian at the picturesque seaport of Xigang.
We attended the Games as Neutral Umpires. This role allowed us to offer additional guidance and leadership both on and off the field to the Chinese officials. We encouraged many discussions about communication and styles of umpiring, use of management tools, positioning, best situations to apply advantage, etc. Most evenings we met as a group to watch the pertinent video footage of the day and openly exchange our views, which proved to be a very good learning opportunity for all involved.
The facilities for the tournament were excellent: two water based pitches, a gym, sports hall, hotel, small shop, and physiotherapy clinic were all on site. This meant that the tournament was able to run very smoothly, with only the weather on the last day causing any problems – and even then, the slight downpour only effected the first two games of the day, with the 3rd/4th place play off and final being able to be rescheduled to the main pitch in good time.
With only two non-Chinese umpires at the tournament, one could be forgiven for assuming that language and communication might have been an issue. This was, however, not the case. The local tournament organisers provided us with an official translator, and many of the umpires and technical officials were keen to practice their English in preparation for other tournaments. In addition to this, we both made a sterling effort to learn Chinese – at least enough to communicate on the pitch – and Annabelle has even promised to take lessons on her return to Australia (evening classes start in early October).
The games were of a high standard, with the pace of every game being consistently and constantly high. One particularly interesting tournament rule, however, was that any game that reached 10-0 would stop at that point: an unusual rule, and one that rarely need be applied(!) We both thoroughly enjoyed the games we umpired with our Chinese colleagues, emphasising in our pre match chat that our teamwork, communication and cooperation would be essential for success. We were lucky enough to umpire a semi-final each, and were rewarded for our hard work with doing the exciting final together.
The experience was a challenging and very rewarding one, and we were both very proud to have met some great umpires, officials and friends from China – and hope to see them all again at a tournament somewhere in the world. We would both also like to thank everyone involved in the tournament, it was great to work with them, especially the Chinese Hockey Association for all of their support, kind hospitality and the opportunity that they gave to us to take part in this prestigious and excellent event.
Annabelle Willox (WAL) & Wendy Stewart (CAN)
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