The delight on the young hockey player’s faces was clear for all to see as 2015 FIH Rising Star of the Year Christopher Ruehr, team-mates Moritz Fuerste, Florian Fuchs and the rest of the German men's national hockey team turned up to join them for a training session at the Cape Town pitch in South Africa.
The German men’s team took some time out of their recent busy test match schedule against South Africa to pay a visit to a Cape Town project that, over the years, has become very important to the German Hockey Association (Deutscher Hockey-Bund [DHB]).
The team has been on an eye-opening and inspirational trip to the Floral Kingdom region of Cape Town as part of its commitment to the Alster Grootbos Hockey Foundation, part of the non-profit making organisation Grootbos Foundation. Their aim is to create a sustainable, environmentally sound community within the Cape Town Floral Kingdom. Protection of the natural flora and fauna of the area is combined with a drive to educate the community in agriculture, environmental issues and conservation through a number of projects.
The Foundation’s implementation strategies are based on three integrated ‘umbrella’ programmes: 'Green Futures’ which focuses on conservation, ‘Siyakhula’ which focuses on the creation of sustainable livelihoods through enterprise development and ‘Football Foundation’ which focuses on utilising sport for development.
It is this latter that the German Hockey Association has been supporting for the past seven years, and the Hockey Foundation has been instrumental in developing social integration, promoting healthy lifestyles and increasing environmental awareness and life skills amongst communities.
The DHB first became involved in the project in 2009 through the enthusiasm and drive of former national league player Delf Ness, from the Alster Club in Hamburg. Since then, support and interest in hockey has gained momentum and the recent visit by Valentin Altenburg and his Olympic squad sent the local population into a hockey frenzy.
A report on the Grootbos Foundation website says: “We were thrilled the German men’s team were coming to visit. The preparation for the visit started early, our hockey players watched some of the German men’s hockey matches and identified some of the key personalities in the team. On the day, the German flag was painted on all faces and “Wilkommen in Gansbaai” was diligently practised.
“Nothing could prepare our children though for the hockey players arriving in their big coach and walking onto the hockey pitch. We played a mixed match with some of the players mixing with the young hockey players on each team and did some technical drills before having the opportunity to watch the hockey team in action. The children found the interaction inspiring and this representation of the sport has gone a long way to inspiring some talented, up and coming players.”
And the enjoyment of the German team’s visit was a two-way thing. Talking about the experience, FIH Rising Star of the Year Christopher Ruehr said: “We had a great day in the Alster Grootbos Hockey Foundation. It was a total contrast in experiences [from our test matches against South Africa], the contrast could not be greater. Hockey training with kids from the nearby township has left many impressions, which still have to be processed.”
Hockey projects like this are key to inspiring the next generation - the overall aim of the International Hockey Federation's Hockey Revolution. To find out more about this strategy, click here.
For more information about the Alster Grootbos Hockey Foundation, click .