With Rio 2016 a mere three months away, the South
African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), has still not
budged with regard to our men's and women's hockey teams and both will unfortunately
not be participating in the coveted and prestigious Olympic Games.
Having met both
the International Hockey Federation’s (IHF) as well as the International
Olympic Committee’s (IOC) qualifying criteria by both being crowned champions
of Africa, SASCOC simply does not have faith in these teams. The red tape of
SASCOC’s strict qualifying criteria will no doubt have serious repercussions
and consequences down the line.
Short-sighted, petulant and self-serving - this
seems the only way I can describe the above-mentioned sporting body.
But then again this is South Africa!
Do they not realise that they are
robbing these young teams, players and indeed our next generation of invaluable
experience at a large event, which is bound to benefit the teams in the long run?
They are also preventing these young players from getting noticed by big
leagues around the world and enjoying the lucrative benefits that come with it,
thus affecting their financial futures and livelihoods, as many players have
given up careers to focus on Olympic qualification. A once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity lost! The country itself is also being robbed from simply being
represented in this event, at an Olympic Games, which is a huge honour in
This type of decision could very
well be the death knell for the sport in a country that does not even have sponsors
for this popular code, which makes qualification all the more impressive. I
really feel for the South African Hockey Association (SAHA), who have worked
wonders with these teams.
Both teams rankings are inevitably going to drop and
World Cup participation in 2018 is now also up in the air. SASCOC certainly did
not logically think ahead to the 2022 Commonwealth Games where the host’s
involvement is virtually mandatory and our teams will compete.
How badly will
this latest furore set us back?
Women’s coach Sheldon Rostron stated that this
was an excellent opportunity for the team to break into the top 10 in the
world rankings and take on the best teams in the business at their peak.
Not even a petition signed by
more than 15 000 livid supporters and fans and presented to SASCOC was enough
to sway their minds. It again proves that the people in charge don’t really
take the ordinary citizens feelings and thoughts into account when it matters
The players themselves made great sacrifices and as previously stated, most
even stopped working and studying. This type of commitment was sadly not
reciprocated by SASCOC. They happily allowed and gave the green light to both
our men’s and women’s football teams who both only qualified in third position
in their respective tournaments.
SASCOC claim that this allowance was made due
to the lack of international events for these teams but still, there are some serious
double standards at play here.
What is the
worst that could have happened?
The team ends last in their group among the
best teams in the world (all true hockey fans know that last place won’t even happen).
No shame in this at all. The beauty of sport is that anything can occur at big
events. The underdog has proven to go beyond the impossible and achieve the
One’s mind wonders to the Greek football team being crowned
European Champions in 2004 or indeed to the current fairytale story of
Leicester City toppling 5 000/1 odds and ruling English football.
Our country is
steeped in hockey tradition, has international pedigree and a strong heritage
of producing world class athletes in the sport.
World record international goal
scorer Pietie Coetzee comes to mind.
What is to say that our Hockey teams, with
true South African fighting spirit cannot reach the same heights and bring home
Sadly we will never know.
I feel for the players themselves who put their bodies on the
line in order to qualify and are being prevented from being Olympians, which is
an experience every sportsman dreams of and aspires to.
There is still time and
this is mainly the reason for me penning this piece early enough.
hope that Tubby Reddy and his clique rethink and do the right thing for once. I
implore sports minister Fikile Mbalula to get involved and ensure the correct
resolution is taken.
He is always outspoken and interferes in any case, so why
not now when it is for once necessary and required? Where is their national
pride from SASCOC?
But then again, this is a South African sports body. What
else did we really expect?
Dhirshan Gobind is a 30-something freelance sports
columnist/writer/blogger and a UKZN alumnus with a degree in Marketing
Management. He also has a sports column in ‘The Post’.