• SASCOC cuts hockey off at the knees

    SASCOC cuts hockey off at the knees

    - Rio 2016 Saga Part One

    By John Dube

    The Olympic Creed and Motto

    SASCOC has forgotten the Olympic creed and motto, "the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." It’s impossible for every team or athlete at the Olympic Games to be a medal contender. If SASCOC is solely focussed on medals, then fund the medal contenders more and give the non-medal contenders the opportunity to participate based on their own funding (granted they have qualified in terms of the IOC). SA hockey has a passionate and loyal fan base and will no doubt rally behind the teams to fund the road to Rio. SA Hockey teams embody the Olympic Creed and Motto and won't just fight well, they will fight to the death.

    What do the Olympics mean for South Africa?

    When we talk about SA hockey teams going to the Olympics, I don’t think about the 16 players in the current national teams that will miss out. It’s not about the individual players even though they sacrifice almost everything to get to an international level of play on a part-time basis for no financial reward. I think about a generation of South African’s especially the 130,000 current school players, the many others who also played the game at school before them and the thousands that will come after them. I think about these young people who have the right to dream about representing their country in a sport they love.

    So few actually make that final national team but it’s not about being one of an elite few. It’s about striving to do your best and having heroes to emulate in a country which sorely needs more excellent role-models. It’s about staying away from the negative things in life and being active playing a team sport which teaches your core values that serve you through-out the rest of your life in every aspect. It’s about living in a country where everything is possible and access to sport is for everyone right from grassroots to international competition. For school children in SA it’s not about winning a medal or coming 1st or 6th or 12th. But it is about going to the Olympics to do your best representing your country!

    The Olympics is the ultimate instrument through which the Olympics sports can inspire a nation. Why would SASCOC take that one opportunity away from hockey which is the biggest school team sport in SA represented at the Olympics? Did I mention hockey is gender equal too?

    World ranking analysis and impact

    As at November 2015, SA men are ranked 15th in the world with 934 points. SA women are ranked 11th on 1166 points. Winning the African Continental Cup in October 2015 was worth a whopping 525 points for the men and 563 points for the women. Even though SASCOC disregards SA hockey’s continental qualification, it is vital that SA hockey win’s the continental championship to get these world ranking points. Winning Africa is equivalent to finishing seventh out of twelve in the Olympics to put it into perspective.

    Coming last (12th) in the Olympics is worth 300 world ranking points. Since both teams competed in London 2012 Olympics and the men came 11th and women 10th our current ranking is based on even more points than this. Not going to the Olympics will see both teams drop one world ranking spot instantly at least and will have further consequences. Conversely competing at the Olympics could see the SA men jump to as high as 9th place and at minimum jump two spots back into 13th place. SA women could break into the top ten in the world easily with a solid showing at Rio 2016.

    By not sending the teams to Rio 2016, SA’s future path to tournaments and achievements is badly impaired. Already the SA women with their slightly better ranking than the SA men are reaping the benefits. They did not have to participate in the World League Round 2 event and were included directly into the World League R3 / Semi finals event. With tours outside of SA costing over R1million each, SA hockey can literally not afford to drop any lower in the world rankings as this would mean even more overseas tours to climb back up. Dropping outside the top 20 could see SA teams having to go to World League Round 1 event, then a Round 2 event and then a Round 3 / Semi-finals event and onwards. So just to get to Round 3 / Semi-finals (as per SASCOC’s qualification criteria this year), would cost up to R6million total or R3million for each team. Spending R1million on a Round 1 world league event would be a complete waste of time and money with no real test or improvement opportunity for the SA teams.

    It must be noted SAHA has always been good about hosting an event as it’s always cheaper to host. Hosting also serves to grow the game locally amongst fans. SAHA worked really hard to wrestle the recent African Cup of Nations away from Egypt who was supposed to host amid security concerns. So on a pure financial basis in the absence of significant commercial sponsorship, dropping world ranking points by not attending the Olympics would in all likely event, cause us to drop even more world ranking points entering the doldrums of world hockey.

    SASCOC is single-handily destroying our national hockey teams by not sending them to the Olympics. The question must be asked, is this their ultimate goal? SASCOC's only reasoning that the teams are off the mark according to their own arbitrary qualification criteria. With no Olympic participation you will see all senior players retire with their dreams shattered. But more importantly SASCOC are destorying the national teams for the generations to come. The hockey playing youth representing 130,000 South African's and their families and all those supporting SA sport will no doubt become disillusioned with another political decision standing in the way of sport. It will take hockey another four to eight years to recover from this loss of world ranking points and get back to where they stand right now. Already I have seen a passionate 17 year old boy pubilcly give up on his dreams to play SA hockey over SASCOC's decision.

    On the bright side, SASCOC can still change their mind. Sending the national teams could catapult SA into a higher echelon of world hockey with more success to follow over the next four years including future Commonwealth Games medals and glory for SASCOC.

    The biggest Olympic school team sport in SA, identified by the government as a priority code with 130,000 school players involving equal genders and national teams that will do us proud - how can we not send them to Rio 2016?

    You can see the world rankings calculations below:
    Started by the hockey public, there is a petition to send the teams to the Olympics which has over 10,000 signatures already. Everyone is invited to sign the petition here -www.change.org/p/sascoc-gideon-sam-send-the-sa-hockey-teams-to-rio-2016



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