South Africa’s men and women hockey teams’ dismal showing at the Beijing Olympics was mainly due to a lack of international exposure according to South African Hockey Association (Saha) president Dave Carr.
And this, in turn, is due to a lack of funding for the game in the country. The women’s team fared slightly better than their mens’ counterparts, by beating New Zealand for their only win to finish eleventh out of twelve teams.
"The main thing that stuck out for me when speaking to other countries in Beijing is the amount of international hockey they play," said Carr. "For the European sides they can just pop over the border to play an international. For us it costs R750,000 to send a team for two weeks to tour Europe."
Saha general manager Paul Richards said in the year leading up to the Olympics his association had received R2,1 million. Only R1 million of this figure was from government, with the balance coming from the Lotto. "This is not much," said Richards. "We need R10 million a year. Remember this is for six national sides, seniors, under 21 and Under 18’s."
Richards said that Saha had applied to the Lotto for a R40 million grant over the next four years but was not confident the amount would be forthcoming. He also was not confident that government would make up any shortfall. "You don’t ask the government, they tell you what you are getting," said Richards.
Carr believes that with more money all structures of the game could be improved throughout the country. "For instance, our club structure is not very good," said Carr.
"I watched two men’s games the other day and the scores were 11-2 and 17-0 and this is our Premier division. We need to set up a national club league like the PSL where our top teams are playing against each other once a month. But again this will need funding."
In the meantime, Carr is awaiting Beijing reports from national coaches Gregg Clark and Jenny King before plotting the way forward for SA hockey.
"I have also written to every player asking them for honest feedback," said Carr. "The players’ reports will be strictly confidential."
Carr also dismissed the notion that the transformation row between Saha and the Sports Portfolio Committee shortly before the Olympics had any bearing on the poor results.
The committee were insisting that eight players of colour be included in the men’s team rather than the six previously agreed upon. The matter was resolved with both teams travelling with six players apiece.