Making hockey popular in Africa

Hockey is simply a game in which two opposing teams use sticks to move a small object into the opposing goal. It is divided into two major types ‑ field hockey and ice hockey.

Field hockey is played on an open area, traditionally grass but more modernly an artificial surface, and using a ball while ice hockey is played on an enclosed ice surface, traditionally an iced-over lake or pond but more modernly an artificial rink, and using a small rubber disc called a puck.

Unlike soccer and cricket, the game of soccer is unpopular in most – if not all – African countries. 

The environment to make the game of hockey popular in the African continent is not conducive due to different factors.

Accordingly, African countries should strive to create an environment in which top hockey teams are best equipped to win medals and tournaments while simultaneously creating a vibrant social environment to ensure that players of all levels are catered for.

Hockey authorities in countries within and across the African continent should also encourage the development of hockey by introducing the young Africans not only to play but also to enjoy the family and social aspects that the game of hockey provides. 

It is well known that low levels of corporate sponsorship and failure to see hockey as a big business in the continent are biggest problems facing the development of the game of hockey in African countries.

Until the level of corporate sponsorship reaches the level obtainable in other parts of the world, hockey cannot develop in the continent.

This means that governments in Africa through their respective sports ministries and other important players in the development of the game of hockey should join hands and embrace the game of hockey as an empowerment tool.

This also means to take the game of hockey to the next level; there must be a change in the present trend where governments and corporate organisations favour more illustrious sporting codes such as soccer and cricket.

Hockey should be better marketed at the All Africa Games, which is the continent’s number one sporting fiesta.

It should, therefore be the responsible authorities’ mission to provide a wholesome conducive environment and world class facilities at which one can play hockey in a competitive and sociable environment at any age.

More so, to popularise hockey in Africa, responsible authorities should come up with developmental projects. 

South Africa hockey coach, Silver Malele, believes that developmental projects provide youngsters with something positive to focus their energies on.

He says, “It helps them avoid the peer pressures and socio-economic pitfalls plaguing most impoverished communities.”

Hockey authorities in the great African continent should therefore work hard to establish dedicated hockey academies and focus on promoting hockey through club development and strengthening regional or national associations.

Scouting of players should be spread to all parts – urban and rural.

Authorities should also engage public and private organisations and aim to train practitioners (volunteers and officials) and to deliver development programmes more effectively in countries across the African continent.  As hockey breaks down the barriers of generations, cultures, race, gender and income levels, governments, sponsors and hockey associations in the continent should organise coaching clinics.

The wholesome idea of these coaching clinics should be to effectively make the game of hockey more appealing; to make it popular, and at the same time develop it for the good of Africa and her citizenry.

For total transformation of hockey, coaching clinics should also target graded coaches as well as players of different age groups.  More so, the coaching clinics should focus on new rules, modern techniques, drag flick techniques, penalty corner defence strategies, taking penalty corners, formations and how to conduct practice matches. The African Hockey Federation (AfHF), the continental governing body of field hockey in Africa, should come up and religiously follow specific components on umpiring and the guidelines for establishing national umpiring development structures and plans.

The main purpose should be to make the game of hockey popular in the African continent and to increase number of participants.

September 2013
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