Everyone likes to see fair play in action, but at the recent FIH World League Round 1 competition in Suva, Fiji, it was a central theme throughout the tournament, writes Nina Niedermeyer.
Shortly after the end of each match, the players of both teams would gather together in a huddle before each captain would each take the chance to speak positively about the game. Any built-up tension generated in the match was quickly forgotten, with the two teams shaking hands before lining up for a group photo.
For the Pacific Island teams that took part in the tournament, cultural exchange and fair play was just as important as the results. Another element of cultural exchange occurred before the start of the matches, with each Pacific Island nation performing their own traditional “Haka”, a war dance or challenge to their opponent ahead of the on-field contest. A fantastic example of this can be found on the World League Suva Facebook page by clicking here.
The World League Round 1 competition in Fiji really was a special experience, with hockey being played underneath the palm trees on the only artificial turf in the Pacific Islands. Players, officials and volunteers all worked hand-in-hand in bid to aid the promotion of hockey in the region. A perfect example of the wonderful team-work on show came on Wednesday when a power cut lasting three hours stopped the on-field water sprinklers from working. However, competition officials and volunteers jumped into action, filling rubbish bins with water and watering the pitch manually.
On the venue entertainment side of things, the host nation put together a group of people who were tasked with performing the opening ceremony, making stadium announcements and, most importantly, singing every national anthem live.
“It was quite challenging for us to learn the pronunciation of the words in the national anthems of Samoa and Vanuatu,” said Paul Dominiko, a key member of the group. Dominiko admitted that it took his team one week to learn just one anthem, with him and his colleagues meeting every day after work for a whole month in the build-up to the event. They practised up to three hours per day until they could recite each anthem perfectly. Dominiko said that it was a genuine honour to be involved in the World League Round 1, and he hopes to be involved in more events the future.
As well as the World League Round 1 competition (where the Fijian men and women both qualified for Round 2), the National Hockey Stadium of Fiji also played host to the Oceania Pacific Cup (OPC). Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Samoa (women only) were joined in the OPC by the New Zealand Maoris and Australia Country. Unfortunately, the men of Samoa were forced to withdraw from the competition due to overbooked flights, which is a common issue in the Pacific at this time of the year.
For the women of Vanuatu, the tournament was extra special as it was their first ever international event. Although they lost all of their matches in the competition, there was a feeling that the group made significant improvements during every match, which is very positive for the debutants. The passion for hockey in Vanuatu is growing at a rapid rate, and international exposure can only aid the process.
The Vanuatu men are also a relatively new team at international level, but captain Hiro Namu has seen at first hand the huge strides forward that his side has made in recent years. “Every single year, my team-mates improve their skills”, said the 18-year-old, who has been playing the game for five years.
When the teams from Vanuatu arrived in Suva, they were given a huge and very welcome surprise thanks to the generosity of the Australia Masters Men’s Team. Due to a lack of playing equipment amongst the group, everybody shared sticks and shin-pads to ensure that they could compete. However, the Aussie Masters Team kindly helped their cause by providing each player with shin-pads, a mouth guard and a pair of playing shoes. “We are glad!” said Namu, a player who was extremely proud to be playing in the FIH World League Round 1 tournament.
For umpire Simon Pondrilei, the event in Suva was the biggest appointment of his career. The man from Papua New Guinea made his international umpiring debut at the Hockey World League, having started officiating in 1982. Although he has been involved in hockey for a very long time, the former Rugby and Australian Rules Football player was there to learn as much as he could.
“It is very special for me to be here”, said Pondrilei. “I want to improve my skills. I’m talking a lot to the other umpires and also to the umpires’ manager. Learning does not stop until you are six feet underground!”
Pondrilei is the third Papua New Guinean to umpire at the Oceania Pacific Cup. It was clear that he was thoroughly enjoying his time in Suva, where he was staying with the Papua New Guinean teams. Referring to his own development as an umpire, Pondrilei explained the most important thing that he wants to achieve when umpiring matches. “I just want both teams to be happy with the decisions I call.”
When he gets back home to Papua New Guinea, Pondrilei will pass on everything he has learned at the Hockey World League. He was involved as an umpires’ manager at the recent Papua New Guinea Games, and it is his aim to get more young people to take up umpiring. Pondrilei also wants to make sure that there are greater opportunities for officials from Papua New Guinea to attend both continental and world events.
More information about both the men’s and women’s tournaments can be found at the links below.
Further information is also available here: http://www.sportingpulse.com/assoc_page.cgi?c=2-9304-0-0-0&sID=260710
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