Sitting between the two team benches, the men at the Technical Table have the best seat in the house. But many fans often wonder, ‘Who exactly are those people behind the table and what do they do?’ The staff at FIH.ch set out to solve this mystery and spent a game sitting behind the Technical Table at the Electric Ireland FIH Road to London men’s tournament in Dublin
The technical crew in Dublin is as varied as the colors in the Olympic Rings. The Technical Officer is Richard Akpokavie from Ghana. Serving as the Judges are Luis Cesar Aleman from Argentina, Martin Canniffe from Ireland and Erik Klein Nagelvoort from the Netherlands. Their background may be as diverse the kinds of animals in a zoo, but come game time the quartet works as a fine-tuned machine.
FIH.ch was able to join the crew for the Ireland vs. Ukraine game, and the first order of business was clarifying who did what at the Table. The Judges normally rotate jobs, while Technical Officer Richard Akpokavie has the same task every game to act a mediator between the managers, umpires and judges. For this game, Luis is working the statistics system and keeping track of substitutes, Erik is in charge of the clock and official time, while Martin, who would normally be off-duty for the game, is helping out by handling the cards.
With the duties sorted, it was time to get down to business:
Pre-Game: Luis receives the line-ups from both managers and the crew goes to work. On the pre-game agenda is verifying that all the players on the field match up with the scoresheet and checking that the teams have the correct uniforms, or as Richard says, ‘being the fashion police’. They also check that all the equipment is legal and in good shape and test the timing equipment.
Anthems: There are jitters on both sides of the table as the teams get ready to take to the field. The table area is packed with cameramen, mascots, teams and other officials, but as soon as the anthems are over the area clears like a fog.
First five minutes: Erik gets the signal from the umpire and starts the clock in perfect time with the opening whistle. Meanwhile Luis keeps an eagle eye out for the substitutions – if a player doesn’t come into the game, there’s no credit for the cap, so it’s important to make sure everyone gets logged in as they enter the game. Martin sits by and waits for action from a card.
20:00 The first goal is scored! The team at the table is responsible for naming the goal scorer. Martin has the best angle and relays the jersey number the crew. Luis inputs the information into the official scoresheet.
25:00 The goals are pouring in from Ireland and thanks to a handful of substitutes blocking the view, no one sees who scored the fourth goal. No problem. Richard goes to the Irish Team Manager who quickly gives him the jersey number.
30:00 Uh oh, there’s trouble. The Irish coach isn’t happy about a call on the field and is yelling in the direction of the table. Richard is on the case goes to cool him down. Luis explains ‘it happens a lot that coaches or managers get upset at something on the field and yell in our direction because we’re the closest thing there is around.’
35:00 The Irish team is up 5-0 at the half, but the Irish coach is still not happy. Richard mediates and Umpire Manager Philip Schellekens is on the scene to have a quick chat with the coach.
Halftime: It’s the highlight of the game for Argentina native Luis – there’s just enough time for a warm cup of tea to help with the 10 degree windy weather. Luis and Richard are bundled up for the game, but Erik and Martin seem to be coping just fine with the frigid temperatures, seems they’ve had practice in Holland and Ireland.
Second half: the Ireland coach comes out and immediately apologizes for getting upset earlier and the mood lifts for the start of the second half.
40 minutes: Ireland is pouring in the goals again. Luis is the busiest man, trying to keep pace with all the goals on the sheet and making sure the final statistics are accurate. Meanwhile, Martin, who is in charge of cards has seen no action this game, a rare occurance indeed!
65 minutes: Ireland puts in its double digit goal. The PA anouncer on the other side of the field credits the goal to an Irish player that was actually on the bench – the player turns and thanks the judges for their generosity and a round of banter ensues – showing that even in a Olympic qualifier there can be a moment of levity. Martin sorts the error with the announcer and a correction is announced.
70 minutes: The final horn sounds. Ireland wins the game 12-0. Luis has writer’s cramp. Erik resets the clock and Martin sits looking at the empty card sheet in front of him (a good problem to have). Richard goes to shake hands with both managers and coaches and the clock starts to countdown for the next match.
FIH.ch would like to thank the Technical Table members for allowing access to the table during the game.
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