As the sports world plays its part in recognising the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) outlines three areas in which hockey in one form of another is making a difference in the community.
In Australia, we learn about an annual hockey programme that is helping young people in remote communities to develop sports and life skills. In India, we visit a state where hockey is the focal point that brings a diverse tribal community together, while in our third story, we meet the hockey coach who is combining his two passions – hockey and Africa – to help a war-torn community heal.
Video created by Nupur Mahajan
In India, the Odisha State Government is highlighting hockey’s role as a tool for promoting community development and fostering peace and harmony between the tribal regions within Odisha.
With the 2018 Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup taking place in the state capital Bhubaneswar, there is a real sense of pride and excitement among the diverse communities. “Every house has a hockey stick,” one excited hockey fan exclaims, while another says that “hockey sticks are often given as wedding gifts.”
Odisha has a proud hockey heritage, producing more than 60 Olympians. Not for nothing is the state known as ‘the cradle of hockey’.
Even in the most remote areas of the state, hockey’s importance resonates. Chief Minister of Odisha is Naveen Patnaik. He says: “Kids learn to walk with a hockey stick. In the tribal areas, people will stop to watch even local matches.”
The village of Sundergarh, 350 km from the capital city of Bhubaneswar, has proved a hot-bed of hockey stars. Dilip Tirkey, who was born and lives in Sundergarh, was India men’s captain for 10 years and played in three Olympic Games, while the women’s 2016 Olympic squad contains four players all originating from Sundergarh – Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Lilima Minz and Namita Toppo.
The Odisha government has played its part by providing 16 state-run hostels. Children who are selected to attend the hostels get free coaching, education and equipment. Further along in their careers, cash prizes have been awarded to the national players, which have gone towards helping them and their families set up homes. India women’s Rashmita Minz says: “I got 7.5 Lakh Rupees after the Asia Cup and that is how I can build a house and support my family.”
In another move that is helping its hockey stars to eke a living out of their sporting achievements, the Hockey India League 2017 champions, the Kalinga Lancers are the only state sponsored team in the Hockey India League. It is through these initiatives that hockey is helping improve and develop the lives of people in even the most remote areas of India.
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Pilbara Community Hockey Programme, Western Australia
Life for many people living in indigenous communities in Australia can be tough. The communities are often in remote rural areas with limited facilities for education, health or welfare. So an annual sports programme, attended by national sports stars is a really positive addition to the lives of the children it serves.
The Pilbara Community Hockey Programme in Western Australia is sponsored by Fortescue Metals Group and supported by Hockey Australia. The programme, which has been running for the past six years, includes training and games but is also important for social development. The presence of a number of Kookaburras and Hockeyroos adds a really important element the programme as it provides positive role models and a source of inspiration to the young children who participate on the programme. The week culminates in a Festival of Hockey, hosted at one of the four participating schools.
Brooke Peris and Josh Beltz were just two of the national team players who took time out of their training schedule to get involved with the project. “This is a great programme to get our current and future athletes to come down, coach some hockey and enjoy a great day,” said Peris.
And Beltz added: “It’s a really exciting opportunity to teach the kids about hockey. It’s been really successful, with everyone having lots of fun.”
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Tapping into talent in Burkina Faso
Our final focus on International Day of Sport for Peace and Development features the work of Gabriel Tuscher, a Swiss-born hockey player and coach who has worked for the past 10 years in Belgium, working with the Brussels-based Wellington Hockey Club.
When he is not pitch side in Belgium, Tuscher spends a lot of his time in the African nation of Burkina Faso. The country is one of the poorest in Africa, suffering from long periods of drought, plus tribal violence in its northern region. Despite this, Burkina Faso entered its first ever international tournament when its national team competed in the inaugural West Africa Hockey5s event held in Ghana, in March this year.
Burkina Faso’s rise to the status of international hockey nation has been thanks to the joint efforts of Tuscher and his team – many of them volunteers from the Belgium Hockey Federation – and FIH’s West Africa Targeted Assistance Programme (TAP).
TAP in West Africa was initiated in Ghana but the impact has been felt in the neighbouring countries as coaches, umpires and administrators from the surrounding nations, including Burkina Faso, have all benefited from the education courses provided by the TAP project.
Tuscher himself is a course educator on the TAP programme, but he is also working independently to get Belgium hockey more closely involved with development in the African country. His plan is to link Belgium clubs to clubs in Burkina Faso and open channels for coaching, advice, financial support and equipment donations.
Considering the huge problems this country faces, both economically and politically, the growth of hockey has been extraordinary. A visit to the Facebook page of the has pictures of men, women and children playing, training and enjoying their sport, while another picture shows a team kitted out in shirts donated by the Belgium Hockey Federation.
These projects are just a few of the many initiatives across the world which mirror the aim of the FIH’s 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy aimed at making hockey a global game that inspires the next generation. And, on International Day of Peace, hockey’s role in providing a safer and more peaceful future can be seen and celebrated.