Sport – and hockey in particular – can play a hugely important role in promoting social integration. No matter what the nationality, cultural or religious beliefs, sport can offer a common ground, where friendship, competition and teamwork are the three most important factors.
Which is why the work being carried out by the Royal Moroccan Hockey Federation among young hockey players is proving both popular and successful.
Hockey development has an established programme in Morocco, with hockey camps, training days and hockey-related competitions organised regularly over the past few seasons. However, the national governing body, the Royal Moroccan Hockey Federation (RMHF), has really ramped up its development activities in the past few seasons.
The RMHF is very aware of the potential impact sport can have as a vehicle for social integration, and as part of its outreach strategy, the Royal Moroccan Hockey Federation is organising Operation African Hockey Days for young Africans residing in Morocco. The participants come from a number of African nations, including Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea and Mali. All-in-all, more than 600 young Africans will be targeted by the programme and its organising body.
Operation African Hockey Days will run over a three-month period and will take place in local sports centres and sports halls in the Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Rabat. The umbrella organisation supporting the initiative is the government’s Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The first stage of the programme took place in mid-April at the CSP Ain Sebaa in Casablanca. The programme was divided into two workshops – a theory session, led by the RMHF Technical Director, which introduced the youngsters to the game of hockey, via some inspirational videos, while the second session was a series of fun, games-based activities.
There were also some exhibition games where more experienced players from the Federation schools demonstrated hockey at its fast-paced and exhilarating best. The audience was both impressed by the skills on show and inspired to develop their own skills and hockey knowledge.
Putting on such workshops and coaching sessions is a financial strain on the RMHF but, as Kamal Ghallali, President of the Royal Moroccan Hockey Federation, points out: "We persist in continuing this operation because we believe in what we are doing and the great impact it has on these young people."
The President spoke of the human dimension – health and well-being associated with sports; the social benefit of playing sport – teamwork, friendship and competition and, of course, the diplomatic element – as nations come together to promote activities such as this, then barriers between neighbouring countries are broken down.
Other stages of this initial programme will take place in El Oulfa and El Bernoussi before two new programmes commence in Rabat in Takadoum district and Yakoub el Mansour.
This is yet another example of the amazing development work being doing across the world which is helping develop the sport in line with the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy, which you can find out more about here.
For more information about the RMHF, click here.