Having a safe pair of hands runs in this PMB family

2015-01-29 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG father and son Alan and Chris McCathie have achieved the distinction of being the first father and son to play goalkeeper for South Africa’s national hockey teams in the sport’s long history.

Chris (25) made his debut this year for the SA men’s indoor hockey team at the Indoor World Cup Qualifier last year and has already racked up seven Test matches, including a ­superb series against PSI Africa All Stars at the hugely successful Pro Series Indoor (PSI) Nationals in Cape Town last month.

Indoor hockey is to traditional Astro or outdoor hockey what Twenty20 cricket is to 50-over matches. There are five players, including a keeper, per indoor side, with a maximum seven rolling subs. In outdoor, it is 11 per side with seven rolling subs.

Dad Alan (56) was at his peak on the outdoor or Astro pitch during the eighties and his seven “Test” matches against Belgium in Europe — and Chile in South Africa — were in a South Africa national team who were unrecognised by the world due to apartheid. Such was “Ruffdog’s” talent, if he had been playing now it would take a brave man to say he would not have officially achieved national and international recognition.

“It took me seven years to get seven ‘Tests’ and it’s great to see that Chris now has an opportunity to play the world’s best,” says Alan.

Indeed, the SA team leave today for the Indoor World Cup in Leipzig, Germany, from February 4 to 8. “We have been blessed with the sponsorship of our team by Greenfields, Deloitte, Nolands and PSI,” says Chris. “They have made this possible.”

“I’m going too,” chimes in a proud-as-punch dad. “What with the depressing exchange rate, I said to Chris, ‘Would you like me to come and watch you play for your country at the Indoor World Cup in Germany or should I rather keep that money for your inheritance?’ Quick as a flash Chris replied, ‘You had better be there, Dad!’”.

As is the rule in sport, family support plays a vital role in a gifted child’s journey on what can be a very rocky path to international recognition.

Watching Chris play, you can see so many mannerisms of his father when he was in his goalkeeping pomp.

“Dad has coached me my whole life,” says Chris. “He’s done it as a goalkeeper himself, so I listen with respect, because he’s walked the talk. Probably the most I get from Dad is in dealing with the mental aspect of the game. It’s great to know he’s always there for me and often his pointers before a match can make the difference.”

“Although I really enjoy Astro or outdoor hockey, I love indoor hockey more because of its unforgiving intensity, incredible pace and non-stop goalmouth action, which means the players and goalkeepers are in the game far more than in outdoor.”

And that’s why indoor hockey is booming among our youth.

SA played PSI Africa All Stars in the evenings at Nolands PSI Nationals last month and to have 2 000 young PSI hockey boys and girls who had played during the day cheering at full-blast was an electrifying experience.

What stood out in Cape Town as well as at an indoor hockey coaching clinic in Durban last Saturday, these SA indoor hockey players are giving as much of themselves to the public — and especially the hockey-crazy kids — as they can.

“We owe it to them,” says Chris. “This sport had a great future and we must set the example.”

A graduate of Cordwalles Prep, St Charles College and the University of Stellenbosch, Chris owns CT Organics and says all three ­institutions helped shape his positive approach to life.

But it always comes back to family, says Chris. “From Dad, to my mom, Bridgette, stepdad Howard, they have always been there for me, especially my younger brother, Matt, who is also my best friend.”

With that kind of support, the only way is up for South Africa’s fearless Indoor Hockey World Cup goalkeeper, Chris McCathie.

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