Hockey in doldrums

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THE achievement by the Zimbabwe national women’s hockey team on a warm Moscow evening about three decades ago remains etched in the minds of many as the pinnacle of accomplishments for the local game. The turn of the century, however, ushered in a period of relapse, marked by the death of international fixtures, collapse of the local league structures and talent flight. A toxic combination of poor facilities and lack of corporate sponsorship have also been cited as some of the reasons hockey continues to teeter on the brink of collapse. Year 2011 offered much for the sport following the decision by the African Hockey Federation to award the hosting of the Olympic qualifiers to Zimbabwe after concluding that Mozambique, the host of this year’s All-Africa Games, had inadequate facilities. The All-Africa Games will act as qualifiers for next year’s London Olympic Games. Hockey Association of Zimbabwe president Kays Kanyangarara said the sport was on the verge of collapse, mostly due to lack of interest by seasoned administrators. He cited the appalling state of the two main stadia, Khumalo and Magamba in Bulawayo and Harare respectively as another drawback. “When international hockey moved onto artificial surfaces, we stayed on grass pitches hence we could not play international games and that affected our playing techniques,” he said. Economic challenges that bedevilled the country over the last decade, said Kanyangarara, also led to an unprecedented exodus of talent. “Many of our players left in search of greener pastures and this grossly affected our local structures,” he said. Meanwhile, hockey enthusiasts are already casting their eyes at the City of Kings hoping that the Olympic qualifiers will provide the much needed boost for the sport, the only one to win an Olympic gold.

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