In the latest of our ‘Play Hockey Stay Healthy’ feature stories, Liu Yuxiang of the Chinese Hockey Association tells us how the sport is slowly resuming in certain areas in China as well as the safety measures being taken in relation to the COVID-19 global health pandemic.
Hi Liu, thank you for talking to us. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has had a huge impact on all aspects of life, with the inability to play sports such as hockey being just one of many things affected in this crisis. China is one of the countries in which hockey is slowly returning. Could you tell us what stage you are at regarding the return to action, and how things are coming together?
Liu Yuxiang: “Like many other sports, hockey has been largely affected in China since February. We are now working to restart hockey competitions at regional level. In areas where the COVID-19 risk is at a low level, we are encouraging a combination of 6-a-side and 11-a-side tournaments to be held, depending on the pitch size and age group of the players. Also, we plan to organize online coaching clinics, umpiring courses as well as sport science seminars.”
After a long period of lockdown, there must be a real sense of excitement about the return to action. What has been the reaction from your respective hockey communities?
Liu Yuxiang: “Hockey fans are very excited to see regional competitions are taken place. During national lockdown, social media played a very active role in connecting hockey community. People share views, news, video clips by WeChat. Our [Chinese Hockey Association’s] public account on WeChat has shown an incredible increase in headline clicks and posts during the most difficult time.”
Are there any special measures in place regarding social distancing? What is currently allowed in terms of training and interaction between the players and coaches?
Liu Yuxiang: “In most of the cities in China, the pandemic has been taken under good control. According to the guidelines of the health authority, travel restrictions have been lifted and lives are more or less coming back to normal. In May our national women’s team returned from South Africa [after being stuck there for many weeks due to lockdown] and, having completed the three weeks quarantine, are now allowed to train and travel as usual.”
Everyone recognises the devastating impact that the coronavirus has had on the world. However, sport often proves to be a powerful and positive force during difficult times. How important is the return of our sport to the hockey family in China?
Liu Yuxiang: “Sport has always been the best way to encourage people during hard times. People are motivated by seeing hockey, as a minority sport, restarted as a pioneer. Hockey fans are all very excited to see the video showing our national players training during national lockdown in South Africa, and their fighting spirit is well proved in this campaign.”