Valentina Quaranta has been working in hockey development in the African nation of Tanzania since 2014. During that time she has seen exponential growth.
The Italian hockey player and coach was working and living in the Netherlands when she got together with Nick Isbout, Elly Duivesteijn and Ivo Caminada to create the Twende Foundation.
Five years on, hockey has spread from a small core in Dar Es Salaam to six regions across Tanzania. That translates into 1,500 eight to 18-year-olds playing hockey.
The sport is now played in approximately 50 primary and secondary schools.
The aim of the Twende Foundation was to provide support, training and materials for local coaches who showed the desire and potential to be hockey leaders. To date, more than 100 hockey players and school teachers have been trained to be hockey coaches and most are now delivering hockey in schools and the local communities.
From the local coaching talent pool, the Foundation employs nine hockey coaches, four women and five men, to deliver coaching to children and to train the new coaching recruits. All nine are also hockey players and have been with the Foundation from day one.
In a huge step forward, the Twende Foundation recently provided financial support for four experienced coaches from Tanzania to attend a FIH coaching course in Nairobi that was organised by the Africa Hockey Federation.
As Quaranta says: “This wasn’t just about increasing knowledge: it was also about gaining international exposure and seeing how hockey coaching is delivered in other countries.”
The four coaches – Sultan Kondo, Elieza Mwakamwema, Alice Ongoro and Rosemary Renatus – will now take their newly acquired coaching knowledge back to their clubs in Tanzania. Sustainability is a key part of the Twende Foundation strategy.
The energetic Quaranta is also working with the Tanzania Hockey Association to organise locally-run youth leagues. The most established of these take place in Dar Es Salaam. There is a league for primary schools and another which caters for secondary school and community-based teams.
The primary school league is open to children under 15, and is 6-a-side. The secondary school league is for 15-20-year-old students and is 11-a-side. A total of 40 teams take part across the two leagues. Quaranta’s aim for 2019 is to develop similar competitions in other regions of Tanzania where hockey is being developed.
“The foundation wasn’t just about increasing knowledge: it was also about gaining international exposure and seeing how hockey coaching is delivered in other countries.”
- Valentina Quaranta
There has also been movement at the elite end of the spectrum. Support from the IOC via the Olympic Solidarity Fund meant Quaranta and her team were able to hold National U15 and U18 Championships in 2017 with representative teams from six different regions. More than 300 young players took part in the inaugural event.
The following year, with the aim of promoting hockey to more girls and young women, Quaranta organised a national 5-a-side tournament. Her efforts were rewarded as 100 players took part in the female-only event.
As with all developing hockey nations, funding, skill and knowledge remain the major sticking points. The next step is to raise teams to represent Tanzania on the international stage but, as Quaranta says: “Tanzania cannot participate in international competitions because the national hockey association is not able to provide the funding. Twende can offer some support, but the main work has to be done by the local hockey association and, despite best efforts, there remains a lack of local knowledge when it comes to fund raising and development.”
There is also the question of facilities. Hockey remains a minority sport in Tanzania and, in a country that suffers high poverty levels and is economically challenged, the government is unlikely to hand money over for hockey facilities.
But it is these barriers that determined people such as Quaranta fight to overcome and in just five years, under her stewardship, hundreds of Tanzanians have become part of the global hockey community.
Quaranta herself has just returned to Europe to study for a Masters Degree Development Management, but she remains heavily involved in the work of the Twende Foundation. In a move that demonstrates how successful she has been in making the programme sustainable, Quaranta’s replacement is Alice Ongoro – one of the original recruits to the coaching programme and a recent beneficiary of the FIH Coaching Course.