Photo(FIH \/ Africa Hockey Federation)
The once powerful hockey nation of Zimbabwe has struggled in recent times largely due to their inability to participate in international competitions organized by the African Hockey Federation (AfHF) and the International Hockey Federation (FIH). However, the recent Africa Cup tournament in the refurbished Khumalo Hockey Stadium in Bulawayo suggests that the sport is making big strides forward in Zimbabwe.
In an attempt to recapture the glory days of Zimbabwean hockey – which culminated in their women winning the first ever Olympic Hockey Gold medal during The Games of the XXII Olympiad celebrated in Moscow in 1980 – the government of Zimbabwe embarked on a massive redevelopment of the Khumalo Hockey Stadium in Bulawayo. The work was undertaken for two reasons. Firstly, to enable the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe host the high profile FIH/AfHF Olympic Games Qualifying Competition, and secondly to mark their return to international hockey competitions, both as a playing nation and a tournament host.
The Khumalo Hockey Stadium, which is one of the two arenas constructed in 1995 to host the 6th All Africa Games, deteriorated over time due to a combination of under-use and a lack of maintenance. However, this all changed when AfHF offered Zimbabwe the hosting rights for the 2nd African Olympic Qualifier, and the Khumalu Hockey Stadium was restored to its former glory. Important work was carried out to fix the damaged irrigation system and a state-of-the-art Edel Grass BV pitch - designed to reduce water consumption by 30% - was put in place.
The main structure comprising of offices, changing rooms as well as a VIP and hospitality areas has also been fully restored, along with the 2,500-seat grandstand. Opposite the main stand there is a raised embankment which provides additional space to watch the action, with the area benefitting from some wonderful landscaping and newly laid grass. It provides fantastic visual scenery which adds even more charm to this outstanding venue.
The project would not have been possible were it not for the efforts of Senator David Coltart, the Minister for Education, Sports, Arts and Culture.
“Zimbabwe hockey has a rich history, with hockey having been played in the country for many years,” said Senator Coltart. “The country’s successes are highlighted by the famous “Golden Girls” who won Gold at the 1980 Olympic Games. Hockey has been played at a high level in Zimbabwe’s schools and it is hoped that with the revival of the club structures and development of hockey facilities such as the Khumalo Hockey Stadium the game will go from strength to strength”.
Senator Coltart also expressed thanks to Minister of Finance Tendai Biti MP, the Minister of Public Works Joel Gabbuza, the City of Bulawayo, the Local Organising Committee, and the many individuals who ensured that Zimbabwe hosted a very successful African Olympic Qualifier.
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Report submitted by Nii Quaye-Kumah, AfHF Honorary Secretary General of the African Hockey Federation.