Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A call to FIH - The need for grass hockey, to ensure hockey does not become an"endangered" game.

3 countries have qualified for the semifinals of the 2009 Junior World Cup. There are 2 European nations and an Oceanic nation. The 4th spot is going to be a toss up between an Oceanic nation and an Asian country. The demography seem to reflect that the "Caucasian" nations in general seem to be the dominating factor in the game while without doubt being a developed nation is becoming a fundamental yardstick to achieve success.

The essential question is: "Why are these 2 factors playing such a key role in the current dominance of field hockey?"

Much of the answer relates to history more so the way Asian countries by acts of omission surrendered to the changes in hockey that came into being from the 1970s onwards. The Asian decline was not instantaneous but over time as the generations of players that otherwise should have come through the ranks of the natural process of development did not materialise, as in the past decades prior to the 70s.

This yet begs another question: "Why was there such an inhibition in the natural process of development in hockey?"

When hockey was played on natural grass surface, people in Asia would play it anywhere, so long as there was a patch and the natural greens were common settings plus readily available,which made hockey a common sports for the continent When artificial surfaces became the nominated grounds in hockey, such pitches were not common sights because of the high costs and they were not readily accessible in view of locality and affordability. These combination of factors created a scenario where there was a regression phenomenon in the natural process of development. Young kids turned to other games, where the natural environment still provides the breeding ground for such sports.

Changing of surfaces saw the game move into a another paradigm and with it came the different attires & equipments plus the change of rules. A combination of this made hockey an expensive game for an average Asian young kid. Sparing 2 or 3 countries, the rest of Asia particularly the main hockey playing nations are of developing status or poor. Therefore to equip young players with a decent stick, turf shoes, socks and guards i.e shin and mouth is not exactly a cheap exercise. This itself creates a hindrance for young Asian kids to take up hockey. Compound these with the issue of accessibility and affordability to play on artificial turf, makes hockey a "rich person" game, thereby out of reach of majority of the kids in Asia. The impact is that the game of hockey has over time lost much of its popularity in Asia.

The preceding paragraphs would probably provide insights into why developed countries seem to be successful since the 70s. A census of the number of artificial turf pitches in such countries itself would provide sufficient evidence of the growth of the game in such countries. The wealth of the nation provides it the very basis to create the infrastructures for the promotion of the game. Something the developing and poor countries can only look on and be envious as their priorities of spending are different. Therefore unless a Asian hockey playing nation is of developed nation status, success in hockey may continue to elude them.

The other aspect is : "How does the Caucasian connection play a role in the game of hockey?" 8 of the top 10 nations are from Europe or Oceanic and where the "Caucasian" influence is highly significant. Both these continents dominate FIH and spearhead most of its Committees. Without doubt, they would want to promote and maintain dominance in what is good for them. Obviously, the "dotted" Asian representation in FIH including one high in the hierarchy originating from a country not renowned in international hockey, puts Asia without much of a "voice" to change things. Other than giving Asia the opportunity to organise tournaments, the rest of the issues in hockey from pitches to rules are a domain of the "Caucasian" countries of the FIH.

FIH have to quickly start taking note of the changes that are progressing in world economics, where the shift of economic power base is slowly moving to Asia. If hockey needs support and the audience, FIH has to move accordingly, to ensure Asia is not kept out. The sooner such reality sinks in or not hockey may lose out to other sports who have or are moving with such haste into Asia.

One such way is to reinvent hockey by allowing grass hockey to resurface and co-exists with turf hockey. Indeed similar to turf hockey, grass hockey too must have a World Cup with qualifiers and continental tournaments. Both grass and turf hockey should run parallel and the combined position of both grass and turf should provide the overall ranking in world hockey. As for the Olympics, whether it should be grass or turf, it could be answered as to which has the biggest audience.

With the reinvention, hockey can become a game that cuts across all "grounds" and all segments of society, thereby providing a greater attraction for people to get involved. If hockey is not reinvented fast, FIH might as well realise that hockey may end up as an "endangered" game in Asia, Africa and even in South America. Domination does not necessarily help to promote the game worldwide and provide equitable representation. Think about it seriously and carefully FIH. Thereafter act expeditiously in the best interest of the game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


We have just added your latest post "A call to FIH - The need for grass hockey, to ensure hockey does not become an"endangered" game." to our Directory of Sports. You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory and get a huge base of visitors to your website.

Warm Regards Team