SA hockey ‘can learn from Ghana’

2009-07-24 00:00

THE “big three” of South African hockey were unanimous in their feeling that the Africa Cup tournament in Ghana was the best yet.

SA Hockey president Dave Carr, SA coach Gregg Clark and Spar SA women’s coach Jenny King were not only pleased – and relieved – at the teams’ retaining their titles as champions of Africa, but also impressed with the progress they witnessed at the continent’s showpiece event.

“The facilities at the ninth Africa Cup of Nations hockey tournament in Accra, Ghana put South Africa to shame,” said Carr. “It was the best Africa Cup tournament ever and South African hockey can learn a lot from the Ghanaians’ efforts in this regard.”

While this is a little shocking when one considers how good South Africa is at organising big cricket and rugby events, Carr’s honesty is refreshing — an attribute not easily found among the country’s sports bosses.

The new National Hockey Stadium in Accra was top-class, while Carr praised Ghana’s local organising committee and the public in Accra for the manner in which they embraced the tournament.

This augurs well for African hockey — a sport traditionally beset with problems that make soccer organisation on the continent seem like a well-tuned Ferrari. Several teams – Zimbabwe and Kenya among them – pulled out at the last minute.

A critical factor in Ghana’s hockey resurgence is the fact that the president of the republic, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, is a former national player and takes a keen interest in the game.

King said the Ghanaian government has chosen to focus on building up smaller sports with financial input and a focus on the youth.

While agreeing with Carr’s general comments, Clark and King were honest in their specific appraisal of the SA men beating the tough Egyptians 3-1 and Spar South Africa disposing of a physical Ghana 5-1 in their respective finals.

Clark said the SA team’s structure, ball movement and technical execution has seem them score 44 goals in winning their last eight Test matches, including the Four Nations tournament in Moscow that preceded Ghana.

The men’s next big tournament is the Champions Challenge in Argentina in December.

King said a young women’s team was chosen for Africa Cup and they battled with the impact of the continent’s robust hockey women, but that the youngsters learnt a lot about the requirements of international hockey.

They now look forward to October’s Champions Challenge women’s tournament in Cape Town.

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