Hockey On The Rise Despite Challenges

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Hockey in Guyana has experienced a mixed bag of success and challenges over the years, from its inception in the late 1920s when Guyana first hosted regional teams in international competitions.
While socio-economic factors played a major role in the paths of both the male and female versions of the history of the game, it was the introduction of the artificial surface on which all sanctioned international matches had to be played, that has had the greatest impact on the development of the sport in Guyana.
Recent discussions with the major decision-makers of the world body, however, promises to see a change that could well be the long-awaited catalyst to propel Guyana into the upper echelons of the international rankings.
With both men and women’s hockey suffering from the loss of many of its top players, and officials, in the 1970s and early 1980s, the once vibrant international hockey programme that saw Guyana earning several medals through both genders, slipped into partial oblivion.
The late 1980s, however, saw a resurgence of the men’s game where Guyana won a bronze medal at the Caribbean Championships in 1988 and a gold medal in the junior Caribbean championships in 1991.
This sadly was the last international competition Guyana would play on natural grass as the game was being transformed by a mandatory rule passed down by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) indicating that all sanctioned international hockey matches would be played on artificial pitches.
As the men’s team struggled to adjust to a new game on a new surface, Guyana sadly witnessed each neighbouring nation install artificial pitches on which they could train and host international competitions.
By the turn of the century it was the ladies’ turn again as a revival of the women’s national programme saw a squad of female players all making their overseas competition debut to Trinidad in 2001.
It would be the first time that female hockey players from Guyana would ever see an artificial hockey pitch. The previous women’s team to represent the country dated back to the early 1980s.
By 2005, women’s hockey had developed to the stage where they could compete once again with some of the regional nations despite their huge disadvantage of inadequate training facilities.
The next few years saw Guyana competing with success at the Caribbean Championships, Central American and Caribbean Games, PAHF Challenge and PAHF Cup. The latter, for which they qualified through earlier performances, placed them among the top eight teams in all of the Americas.
During this successful period between 2010 and 2012, Guyana jumped 20 spots in the global ranking becoming the biggest mover on the list. Encouraged by the success of the women, the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB) embarked to send a men’s team, last year, to the Indoor Pan American Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The disparity in training facilities would be greatly reduced for this effort as the indoor game does not require an artificial pitch. Guyana shocked the Pan American region with their bronze medal placing, defeating the mighty Argentina twice en route to their final result.
This men’s national team result, along with those of the women, seems to have brought greater attention to Guyana by those who manage the sport globally. For the first time ever, this year, the President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), Mr. Leandro Negre, visited Guyana on a short visit along with the President of the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF), Mr. Alberto Budeisky.
It had been more than 25 years since a PAHF President had visited Guyana. While the visit was able to expose the distinguished guests to all aspects of the game and an opportunity to share a moment with some of its players, the main focus of this visit was to discuss the possibilities of Guyana finally obtaining an artificial pitch for hockey.
In meetings with the Ministry of Sport, Guyana Olympic Association and Guyana Hockey Board (GHB), the FIH President pledged his support toward the financing of an artificial pitch. He expressed confidence that if the GHB could secure the required land space, the FIH and PAHF would support in helping to secure funding for its development and laying of an artificial pitch.
This development is a significant one for Guyana as the installation of an artificial pitch would be the most important development that the local game has ever experienced. The women’s programme has currently set its focus on the juniors in an attempt to send an Under-21 women’s team to the Pan American junior championships in Port-of-Spain Trinidad in March 2016.
The men, meanwhile, have embarked on an ambitious programme to send a senior team to the PAHF Challenge in Chiclayo, Peru in October, and an Under-21 team to the Pan American junior championships in Toronto, Canada in May 2016.
The teams continue to train on natural grass and are hopeful that the recent developments could result in an artificial pitch for Guyana in the near future.

Article Categories:
Columns · Issue 16 · Publication · Sports

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