Hockey board eyes artificial pitch at stadium

– to hold tournament for schools

In its drive to push the sport in the country, the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB) is looking to have an artificial pitch installed on the grounds of the Guyana National Stadium, Providence

Philip Fernandes

GHB President Philip Fernandes said discussions have already begun with the Sport Ministry and the manager of the stadium about the building of the much-needed facility. Fernandes said the board understands that massive financial backing would be needed for a project of this magnitude and as such the board was proceeding one step at a time. The first item on that agenda is the acquisition of the land, and Fernandes said the ministry and the stadium manager have indicated their willingness to provide an appropriate area on the stadium grounds.

Though the ministry has not outright offered any monetary assistance, it has committed to providing technical support. Fernandes said the ministry along with the management of the stadium has offered to assist the GHB with the technological “know how” to develop the area into a suitable playing space.

In-depth discussions about the implementation of the project are expected to proceed immediately after conclusion of the ICC Twenty20 Cricket Tournament. Several matches of this event are scheduled for the stadium.

Fernandes believes an artificial turf would eliminate one of the greatest challenges the board has been facing over the years. He said that apart from the cricket grounds there are no other suitable grounds available for the hockey players to carry out their practice sessions.

“A few of the grounds have been very accommodating, especially the GCC and DCC… However, hockey can only be played when there is no cricket,” Fernandes stated

“During the dry season, cricket is scheduled on these grounds on the weekends and although we can sometimes get the use of the grounds during the week, it is difficult to complete a 70-minute hockey match between the time when players get off work and dusk.”

The GHB has also been engaged in discussions with the National Park to resuscitate the hockey field there and the management has been very receptive.  One impediment to using the National Park field is the lack of a fence which once separated the field from the trench. If the area is not fenced teams would constantly lose balls whenever games are played out there.

Another major challenge facing the GHB, Fernandes said was attracting the participation of the younger population. He noted that since the sport has to be played after school, students find that the schedule conflicts with extra lessons.

In the hope of alleviating this, the organisation has begun the implementation of the sport in schools and is planning a schools’ indoor tournament.

Hockey programmes have been initiated in six schools, and though the GHB would like to expand this, it is restricted by the limited number of persons available, and the time they are available, to coach the youngsters.

“We have no professional coaches and so persons are only available to coach after they come off work,” Fernandes said.

For the tournament the GHB hopes to have 10 teams representing the different schools, as well as children who are willing to participate but whose schools do not have a hockey programme.

The tournament, which will be conducted at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, was originally slated to kick off at the end of May. However this will clash with the exam period and the GHB is considering holding it at the end of June.

In addition, the board is eager to conduct coaching sessions in Uitvlugt. It was explained that there is a team there – the Western Dragons – the only one in the entire West Demerara, that is replete with raw talent. This team usually wins the second division tournament, but with coaching its players would improve even more and this would be another way of attracting more persons to the sport and expanding hockey in the West Demerara. However, this has not yet been implemented because the national programme has been exhausting the GHB’s best resources.

At present the national ladies team is training to compete in the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games scheduled to take place in Puerto Rico this July. The men’s national team is training to compete in the Pan American Indoor Cup scheduled for Venezuela in August.

Fernandes said the participation of the Guyana team in the latter tournament is crucial in soliciting support from the Pan American Hockey Federation towards the development of the artificial pitch.

“It is imperative that we are present at the major regional tournaments and that we can make a creditable showing,” Fernandes stated

“This year therefore requires us to accumulate quite a bit of funds to ensure that we maintain our healthy position in the men’s division as one of the better indoor nations in the region and to strengthen our women’s position.”

Fernandes said too that though the board has had a late start and is yet to hold its first tournament, it is still looking at conducting eight local competitions this year; eight were held last year. (Tamica Garnett)

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