Hockey’s Potential Needs to Be Realised

LAST weekend Namibia hosted the Africa Indoor Hockey Cup with a place at next year’s World Cup in Germany awaiting the winner.

Namibia competed at the previous World Cup basically by default after South Africa failed to turn up for the African qualifiers, and having experienced top class international hockey, they were determined to go again.

South Africa, of course, had a score to settle and sent g sides, but Namibia had trained hard and was well prepared and there was a real belief that they could beat South Africa on the court of play.

Namibia’s women’s team rose to the occasion with some inspired performances which resulted in a thrilling Test series. South Africa won the first Test 3-1 but in the second Namibia gave the home crowd lots to cheer about as they raced into a 3-0 lead at halftime.

South Africa displayed great character to draw level at 3-3, but Annelien Davin scored the winner to send the home fans wild with delight, and force the series into a deciding third Test.

On Sunday morning, Namibia could not maintain the same intensity and the experienced South Africans ran out 4-1 winners to win the series and book their ticket to Germany next year.

Namibia’s men also gave an inspired performance but their inexperience showed against the slick and experienced South Africans who made full use of their chances.

It was a big disappointment for both the teams, but despite the defeats, Namibia’s performances and attitude displayed a newfound belief which was well articulated by the women’s coach Jeanne Davin.

“We were extremely motivated and we felt woman to woman that we were on the same level as them. We never saw them as our superiors and we still don’t and I think in Namibia we are actually moving forward in the sense that we don’t respect our competitors too much anymore…

We are actually sick and tired of losing to South Africa, we don’t want to get into this rhythm, we want to change it, so this is maybe just the start of better things to come.”

The series showed that Namibian hockey has the potential, and can even beat, the best on the continent, but they need more top level competition to gain the necessary experience.

The South Africans were suitably impressed and their women’s coach said they would invite Namibia later this year for a Test series to help them prepare for Germany 2015.

Namibia also gave a good performance at the African qualifiers for the Youth Olympic Games in Zambia in February, where they narrowly missed out on a place to Nanjing, China after coming third behind South Africa and Zambia, while Ernest Jacobs was voted the male player of the tournament.

These performances show that Namibian hockey is g and has a good future, but they need more international competition which of course requires more funding.

The African Indoor Cup Series alone cost more than N$300 000 for the NHU to host while the prohibitive costs also excluded other African countries from attending.

The World Pro Series in August, which will see African countries competing for world rankings would be an ideal opportunity for Namibia, but after Zimbabwe withdrew as hosts and were replaced by Kenya, the NHU now needs close to N$1 million per team to compete and it looks rather unlikely that they will be able to raise that amount.

And then there is still the long lingering issue of an astroturf that the NHU has been trying to acquire for the last 20 years.

The lack of it is really inhibiting Namibia’s progress and a country like Zambia’s sudden emergence as a continental player can be ascribed in large part to their acquiring an astroturf two years ago.

The NHU is in ongoing talks and negotiations with the government and private sector, but with costs for a suitable astroturf and stadium with suitable lights now nearing the N$10 million mark, this long held dream might take a while longer to be realised.

Source : The Namibian