The dust is settling over the Matabeleland savannah where the African Olympic Qualifier was held in Bulawayo earlier this month. The African sunsets are beautiful with the sky tinged with orange and pink coloured brushstrokes.
Reflecting on the tournament and the African Hockey Federation’s Congress there are some very positive rays of sunshine with the shadow of some looming clouds.
On the positive side there is no doubt in my mind that in the men’s competition the playing gap between South African and Egypt on the one hand, and Ghana and Kenya on the other hand has narrowed.
There were many tight games and the emerging talent is impressive. Zimbabwe’s hockey is on the way back but they simply have not had sufficient international exposure in recent years and cannot be expected to compete at the same standard in the short term. Knowing the talent they have we expect very tough competition ahead.
Nigeria and Namibia’s absence from the tournament, given their potential, was disappointing.
On the women’s side sadly the gap has not closed significantly and South Africa remains dominant but there is no doubt that Ghana and Kenya are improving and the Zimbabwe team showed encouraging signs.
Once again Nigeria and Namibia’s absence could not have helped their hockey standards and certainly “hurt” the tournament.
Regarding the umpiring there were some impressive performances but in general the standard needs to be lifted and more international exposure is needed.
The tournament also illustrated that Africa has some very competent and promising technical officials but again clearly more international exposure is needed.
African Hockey like the Continent itself has enormous potential. We all know the challenges that the Continent faces and the responsibility that rests with the African Hockey Federation to broaden and intensify development, improve playing standards, governance and administration in its member national associations.
However, these efforts are likely to be sorely tested unless all the members fully support the initiatives, compete in tournaments and participate in Congresses and forums.
Our destiny lies in our own hands and despite generous offers of assistance from the FIH and European Hockey Federation, it is the hockey community of Africa that must shape its own destiny.
Like carving a sculpture from marble this requires hard-work and dedication.
An example of what can be achieved was the magnificent work of Senator David Coltart, Zimbabwe Minister of Sport, Gavin Stephens and his local Organising Committee and the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe for restoring the Khumalo Stadium to its magnificent former glory and running a top quality tournament.
Congratulations to you all.
Related Content: http://www.fih.ch/en/news-3295-hockey-in-zimbabwe-makes-a-comeback
Steve Jaspan is the Chairman of the FIH High Performance and Coaching Advisory Panel. The South African native contributes a monthly column to the FIH website called Viewpoint.
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