Road to Rio: Hockey World League R1 - Women - Nairobi (KEN)
The Hockey World League, the tournament that makes the dream of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a possibility for every hockey playing nation, returns to action this September. In this preview we look at the women’s Round 1 competition in Nairobi, where host nation Kenya (FIH World Ranking: 44) will take on Ghana (WR: 31) and Tanzania (WR: 46).
Ghana are certainly the team to beat in the all-African nation tournament, with the team sitting 13 places above nearest rivals Kenya and 15 ahead of the Tanzania.
Ghana have long been one of the strongest sides in the African continent, but their Silver medal at the 2013 African Cup for Nations marked a new high. They produced an incredible performance in the tournament final to give all-conquering South Africa a real scare before eventually losing 3-2. Although it was not the first time that Ghana has won Silver at the African Continental Championships - they also achieved the same feat in 2005 and 2009 - the narrow margin of defeat gives a strong indication that they could be the team to end South Africa’s 20 year period of dominance.
Tournament hosts Kenya also had a very successful African Cup for Nations in 2013, claiming the Bronze medal by defeating HWL Round 1 rivals Tanzania and also giving Ghana and South Africa serious problems before falling to narrow defeats in the competition. The home favourites are likely to be Ghana’s biggest rivals in the bid to finish top of the pile.
Tanzania may be the least experienced nation in the competition, but that does not stop them from believing that they are capable of making a big noise in Nairobi. Their participation in this event is another milestone for a hockey nation that is on a remarkable journey of development. Their appearance in the 2013 African Cup for Nations was their first ever at such a high profile event, and was only made possible thanks to a hugely successful fundraising drive that generated the money needed for transport and accommodation. Thanks to the incredible efforts of Valentina Quaranta and the Hockey Tanzania project, Tanzania will be taking part in a second international competition, giving valuable tournament experience to an enthusiastic group whilst also adding extra momentum to the development of hockey in the country. To learn more about the Hockey Tanzania project, click here.
Ghana reached Round 2 of the inaugural edition of the Hockey World League in 2012-13, Kenya and Tanzania will be making their tournament debuts.
The women’s HWL event in Kenya takes place from 5-7 September, running alongside the men’s Round 1 event which features Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. You can keep track of the results from Nairobi on the official tournament microsite, with FIH.CH bringing a full summary of the action upon the completion of the event.
The second edition of the Hockey World League got underway earlier this year, with the women’s teams of Malaysia and Belarus emerging triumphant at respective Round 1 events in Singapore and Lithuania before Russia men stormed to victory in Croatia in August.
The September return will see no fewer than nine different Round 1 tournaments will take place over 13 action-packed days, with Czech Republic, Kenya, Bangladesh, Oman and Mexico playing host to the various men’s and women’s events. The remaining Round 1 competitions will be played in Jamaica (30 September - 5 October 2014) and Fiji (6-13 December 2014), both of which will feature men’s and women’s tournaments.
The winning team at each event is guaranteed a place in Round 2 of the Hockey World League, where they will be joined by a number of the highest-placed finishers from the Round 1 tournaments. Round 2 will also see the introduction of the teams placed from 12 to 19 in the FIH World Rankings with the sides ranked 1 to 11 starting their journey in Round 3, where tickets for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well as qualification for the Finals tournament are up for grabs.
More information about the Hockey World League and all of the upcoming events can be found by clicking here.