National coach Phillip Fernandes says that compared to previous performances, the Guyana team showed progress and competed better than ever before at the recent Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) Cup in Mendoza, Argentina.
Fernandes, who is also the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB) president,
during an exclusive interview said:”Everything has to be kept in perspective however and given the magnitude of the tournament and the quality of opposition, our ladies did very well to remain as competitive as they did in some of the matches.
“The team’s objective is to improve their performance on each occasion and I think they certainly did this as evidenced by the fact that they are now competitive with teams at the level of Trinidad and Mexico who were well beyond reach a short time ago,” added Fernandes.
Asked about the positives that can be taken from the trip, Fernandes said:”The players were exposed to the game at the very top level. Apart from the tremendous experience playing against the top tier teams in Pan Am, which would obviously benefit our players, there was great value in being able to compete against the second tier teams like Trinidad and Uruguay. “For Guyana who are relative newcomers, they can be proud of their competitiveness at this level. I think our team has returned more motivated having seen how close they came to a major upset in Pan American rankings,” said Fernandes.
He said that the biggest disappointment of the event for him was the match against Uruguay, stating:”We lost 6-0 which was the same score when we played them in the PAHF Challenge in 2011. In 2011, we defended in our own half and suffered pressure throughout the match from a team that was clearly superior.
“This time around however, while we have not yet caught up with Uruguay, we were far more competitive and earned several opportunities to score against them. We should not have conceded half the goals that we did but paid dearly for a few defensive lapses in concentration which a quality team like Uruguay would capitalize upon,” said Fernandes.
He added:”Apart from that match, our final match against Trinidad should have ended in our favour. Trinidad received a very doubtful penalty stroke with five minutes left in that match and that umpire’s decision basically decided the game. I hate to criticize officials as I think they have one of the most difficult tasks in the world but on this occasion that errant decision cost us a great deal”.
Questioned about the measures that can be put in place to make Guyana even more competitive, Fernandes noted that further development of the school programme is required.
“If we can increase the numbers into the hundreds and obtain an artificial turf for hockey, based on recent performances, I see no reason why Guyana cannot consistently rank among the top nations in the Central American and Caribbean region”, added Fernandes.
According to Fernandes, the team’s greatest weakness in the tournament was the clearing of rebounds after the initial save by the goalkeeper.
He opined that in the past, the team had a difficulty dealing with the high press of opposing teams and that the last year was spent focusing on that issue along with the mastering of the zone defence in midfield.
“These two aspects of our game were vastly improved but exposed our other vulnerabilities like defensive positioning in the circle and finishing in the circle, which will take priority going forward”, said Fernandes.
“On the technical side, we suffer a great deal trying to master the new skills of the game developed for artificial turf like the sweep, lifting skills and the various penalty corner skills”, added Fernandes. Questioned about the future endeavours of the team, Fernandes said “The women’s team has now qualified for the Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC games) in Vera Cruz, Mexico in 2014. In my opinion, although we finished in the bottom three in the last CAC Games in 2010 when we were just returning to international competition, today we could very well medal in these games. “We have competed easily with CAC gold medallists Trinidad in this recent tournament and I think could have done the same against CAC silver medallists Mexico if we had the chance to face them. There is also the Hockey World League being staged again next year which Guyana has an opportunity to participate in but we are not yet certain of the host country,” said Fernandes.
Asked about this final thoughts on the entire event, Phillips said “I am very happy that Guyana had the opportunity to participate in the PAHF Cup. While the Cup was the pinnacle of the last four years, each tournament that we attended was a major stepping stone and facilitated the improvement that we have achieved both in quality of play and in world rankings.”
He recalled:”This drive began with an Olympic Solidarity Grant which was made possible through the Guyana Olympic Association, without which, we would not have been able to embark on such an ambitious programme. I am pleased that the team made very good use of the opportunity and have gained the respect in the region for Guyana.
“The tournament was very well organized and our team, which won the FAIR PLAY AWARD for the tournament seemed to be a crowd favourite aside from the hosts. It was a very worthwhile trip and the challenge for the Guyana Hockey Board now is to maintain this momentum and keep Guyana climbing in the ranks and perhaps becoming a regular presence on the winner’s podium in the region,” said Fernandes.