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Hockey’s giant leap ends in mighty fall

Sticky situation: A Botswana player trails his Namibian counterpart during the recent World Cup qualifiers PIC: BHA
After opting out of the Africa Cup qualifiers, the national hockey teams dusted off their sticks and took a giant leap into the World Cup qualifiers. A brave and ambitious move ended in a mighty fall, as the team recorded some of the biggest defeats in the national sides’ history. But was the embarrassment worth it? Mmegi Sport Correspondent, KABELO BORANABI asks

The last time the sticks were out was in May 2019, at the Spar International Indoor Hockey Test Series. The national hockey teams returned to action after a 23-month hiatus, which was mainly due to COVID-19. As the competitive play opened and events came flooding the Botswana Hockey Association (BHA) had to choose between FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup qualifiers and the African Cup Hockey qualifiers. A decision was made and last week the men and women’s teams were in Durban, South Africa seeking a maiden World Cup berth.

The teams were thrown into the lion’s den as they came up against Africa’s top-ranked teams, South Africa and Namibia. Without a rank, Botswana teams were to battle for a spot at the spectacle to be held in Belgium early next year. They faced a Namibia women’s side that is ranked 10th while the men’s side is placed 17th in the world rankings. South Africa came into the qualifiers as the highest-ranked men’s team at the 11th spot whilst the women’s team in number 14 on the world rankings.

The teams left for South Africa after a much-disrupted preparation and showed their minority status on the first day as the women’s team lost 26-0 to South Africa before a 30-0 beating in the hands of Namibia while the men’s side were also handed a heavy 36-0 defeat by South Africa and they lost 27-0 to Namibia. Day two of the qualification did not produce different outcomes with the team losing 20-0 and 18-0 to Namibia and South Africa respectively. The men’s team closed their tournament with a 37-0 defeat to Namibia before a 30-0 loss to South Africa. The results meant

the local sides returned home without a point after four rounds of games each, however managed to, for the first time attain a continental rank, they are third in Africa Indoor Hockey.   But did the BHA jump into the World Cup qualifiers bear fruit?

“It worked and also did not work in our favour. It did not work in our favour because we were playing against the two best teams in Africa. It was a bit challenging to see our progress, I think if there were other teams it would have been better than playing just two teams who are the best on the continent.

The only positive thing we got out of the tournament is that we managed to get a ranking, we are now the third best in Africa, in terms of indoor hockey,” head coach Thabatshe Mogorosi said. He said the BHA is working on forming a competitive league as he said the national teams need to have international friendly matches occasionally.

“As soon as the restrictions on sport are lifted, we want to focus on the local league to keep our athletes busy, we want to start this immediately. One of the things we want to do is play more friendly games with other countries, this is in a way, trying to gauge our level before competitive games.

Our chances of qualifying were very slim, if all other countries made it to the tournament we were looking at the margins to target the third or fourth spot, I was pretty sure that we would end in these positions looking at how we prepared, I wasn’t really expecting to reach number one or two,” Mogorosi said.


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