Hockey In Africa
Africa represents over 20% of the world’s landmass, that's roughly equivalent to China, India, USA and most of Europe combined. It is a diverse and multi-cultural continent with 54 countries spanning both northern and southern hemispheres. Africa is the second most populous continent and over half of the population are under the age of 20.
Who plays hockey in Africa?
Hockey is played in more places around Africa than you might think. The FIH (International Hockey Federation) has 21 member nations in the African continent, and a number of others where some form of hockey is played. From Egypt and Morocco in the north to South Africa and Zimbabwe in the south, Africa has a rich and vibrant hockey culture.
Who enters what?
The major event in the international calendar is the Africa Cup of Nations for both men and women. The Cup is the main route to qualification for the World Cup and Olympic Games. Regular participants include Egypt, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa. The World League, Youth Olympic Games, and African Club Championships have also provided the opportunities for Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia and Uganda to gain international exposure over the past two years.
What is hockey in Africa like?
In England there are more artificial turf pitches than there are hockey clubs. Playing outdoor hockey on any other surface is now largely reserved for schools, festivals, traditional local competitions and some low level development activity. The hockey landscape in Africa is very different. The vast majority of hockey is still played on alternative surface types like concrete, dirt, gravel, grass, sand, tarmac and laterite. Although some nations are fortunate to have access to artificial pitches; Ghana (1)*, Kenya (1)*, Nigeria (3), Seychelles (1), South Africa (108), Uganda (1)*, Zambia (1)* and Zimbabwe (3) these pitches vary wildly in standard and accessibility. In addition, not all countries will play the 11 aside game regularly, for example in Botswana hockey is played on outdoor concrete courts to indoor hockey rules.
What are the challenges?
There is as much passion, dedication and excitement for hockey in African nations as there is any other hockey playing nation. Likewise, the challenges are the same, albeit on a much larger scale than most. In a nutshell, it is about people, funding, education, pitches, equipment, capacity and resources.
The vast majority of hockey administrators, development officers and team staff in Africa`s 21 National Associations are volunteers. Many National Associations struggle to sustain any form of central government funding so are dependant on the generosity of their individual members, sponsors where possible and external charitable donations. The dominance and influence of football in the political channels of all African nations is a huge challenge for all other sports.
It is commonly said that “knowledge is power”. In England we are surrounded by opportunities to learn. You may have to wait a few weeks or travel for an hour or so to attend a workshop, but you know the opportunity is there. Outside of South Africa, courses, workshops, support for administrators, umpire training, teaching and coaching resources etc. are very hard to come by.
Perhaps with the exception of South Africa, a desperate shortage of infrastructure and equipment present the most practical challenges for nations trying to compete on the world stage. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe have all competed in Olympic Games hockey competition, but over the past 25 years, only South Africa has consistently performed in the top flight of world hockey. Travel distance, logistics and cost present significant challenges for nations wishing to compete internationally. At the opposite end of the scale, there is a real ongoing need for playing equipment to support grass roots development, this is perhaps the biggest single barrier to the growth of hockey in schools and communities.
What are the ambitions of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and the African Hockey Federation (AfHF)?
AfHF together with FIH would like to see current and new hockey playing countries in Africa play an increasing role in global hockey. Hockey`s new 10 year global strategy (the “Hockey Revolution”) was launched by the FIH in Africa in November when member countries met for the 2014 Congress in Marrakesh.
The ambition for hockey is for it to be a global game that inspires the next generation, not just in traditional hockey playing countries but in every corner of the globe. Africa has a vibrant hockey family with many strengths and opportunities. AfHF, supported by FIH, will be responsible for delivering against four strategic goals for Africa – creating exciting events, creating a powerful image for the game, growing its player base, generating more followers and encouraging the professionalisation of the administration of hockey.
What are the solutions?
AfHF are in the process of finalising an Operations Plan for 2015-2018 which will be aligned to FIH’s 10 year strategy for hockey. Within the plan there will be a range of projects designed to support the five core initiatives of the FIH Strategy. The FIH Hockey Academy and the Targeted Assistance Programme are two project examples.
The FIH Hockey Academy is a global education programme that will provide all nations with courses, resources and the support of professionals across a wide range of hockey roles. The aim of the programme is to empower individuals and nations, enabling them to build sustainable capacity to drive growth. In practical terms the programme will provide nations with a player pathway, training for their personnel, access to high performance coaching and resources that can be adopted locally.
The Targeted Assistance Programme (TAP) will provide nations with access to central FIH and partner funding via AfHF. There are many isolated success stories across the hockey world of more advanced hockey nations supporting emerging ones. The aims of TAP are to encourage more of these projects, to coordinate the existing ones and to support them in becoming sustainable long term relationships.
England Hockey is very excited to be involved in one of the first TAP projects, called TAP West Africa. Starting in 2015, this is a four year partnership between England Hockey, Ghana Hockey, UK Sport, AfHF & FIH. The project will see England Hockey supporting Ghana Hockey to develop their participation and performance programmes for coaches, umpires and players. Although the project is primarily focused on the women’s game within Ghana, it is hoped that by establishing Ghana as a hub for hockey in West Africa the long term benefits of the project will be far wider reaching, for men as well as women.
The creation of support structures for hockey within West Africa will hopefully benefit not only existing National Associations such as Togo and Cameroon but also further hockey development in possible new member countries such as the Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal Burkina Faso and Mali where some hockey already happens on a very small scale.
Speaking about the project, England Hockey CEO Sally Munday said “this is a fantastic opportunity for England Hockey to use the knowledge, experience and passion of our staff, volunteers, clubs and partners here in England to support the development of hockey within West Africa”.