28 year old hockey player Valentina Quaranta is not one of those people that you can include in a single cliché; she always said: "Hockey is not my life. It is a hobby, a passion if you wish. "
Although an important aspect of her life, hockey is certainly not her only interest and you get the impression that she would have said the same if she had been an athlete in any other more popular and profitable sport.
It is just a way of being; she is far too interested in the wider world to think about only one thing at a time. Two years ago, in 2011, after having won the Italian League (outdoor and Indoor) with the Lorenzoni Bra Hockey Club a total of eight times, having played a number of games with the Italian National Team and being close to the Olympic qualification for Beijing, she decided to take a year out to do something else. She ended up doing international civil service in Tanzania with an Italian NGO (Non Governmental Organization), called CO.P.E., which is directly involved in projects for the protection of children and mothers, agricultural development, Health, HIV, Education and women empowerment.
But there are things in life that we just cannot escape. During one of her the last days in Dar Es Salaam, by chance Valentina came across a group of children playing near by the road on a ground of sand and stones. The sport that they were playing was not football or basketball ... it was hockey.
Valentina returned back home to win her ninth Italian League with Lorenzoni, in Bra, Province of Cuneo. But the worm of Tanzania was working in her mind. So this year she dropped everything: home, Lorenzoni team, friends, job and she went back to Dar Es Salaam, but this time carrying a bag full of balls, hockey sticks and shin pads collected from her team mates.
"The Tanzania Hockey Association and I started up a project for children to play hockey at school. In the meantime I kept training every morning before I started working with the male Senior team of Dar Es Salaam; they run like crazy ! There are no proper hockey pitches so we play on a playground made of sand, stones and some tufts of grass and cow droppings. I must say that in that playing conditions my ball control improved considerably! The boys I’m playing with are the Army team, which is basically the Tanzania National Team.“
Valentina also found out that Tanzania has a Women National Team but in the past years it was dismembered because of the lack of other women teams to compete with in Tanzania and the lack of funds from the Tanzania Hockey Association and Government. As time passed many of the girls gave up the sport and hadn't seen any development of women hockey in Tanzania. They had no opportunities to play together in tournaments either in Tanzania or abroad. Lack of money, material and infrastructure were just a few of the many problems that hockey has to face in Tanzania.
Tanzanian Hockey Association, with the authorization of the Director of Sport of the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth, Mr. Taddheo, asked Valentina to help them to rebuild the female team and try to develop hockey for girls and youth in Tanzania. They invited her to train the National Women Team in time for the African Nations Cup that will be held in Nairobi (KEN) in September and to find a sponsor to help fund the trip for the Women and Man National teams.
Time is running out. Currently, there are not enough funds to support the teams. The training sessions are well underway, the teams train everyday in the early morning, but the girls and the boys do not know if they will be in attendance at the tournament in Nairobi. For the girls it will be the first time to represent their country in the African Nations Cup. “We are not looking for the results”, says Valentina, who knows how important it will be for the girls to realise the possibility of playing at international level. They have trained on many occasions in the past, but nothing happened due to a lack of financial resources. “This time we hope it will be different, and I’m trying to find the sponsor to support us in developing hockey in Tanzania" continued Valentina. "We need money to go to Nairobi, but also we need resources to develop hockey in the schools, to buy technical equipment and to build infrastructure. “Nairobi is tomorrow, but the development of this sport is a process that requires money and time.
"We need 10.000 euro for each team to participate but today we are well far away,” Valentina sadly admits. However, time has not run out just yet.
For those want to support in some way Valentina and her project here as follow her email address for direct contact and the blog where on-line donation are also possible:
Any help is welcome!
Source: Italian Hockey Federation / Ermanno Silvano
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