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News for 02 April 2020

All the news for Thursday 2 April 2020


McLeod to continue Red Lions until 2021 with van den Heuvel set for 2024 campaign



Shane McLeod will continue to coach the Belgian Red Lions up until Tokyo 2021 with Dutchman Michel van den Heuvel set to take over the role for the 2024 Olympic Games.

A few months ago, 51-year-old McLeod announced he would be leaving the Red Lions after this summer to take advantage of a family year off in New Zealand.

But, after the IOC’s decision to postpone the Tokyo Games, the situation had to be reassessed. McLeod took on the job in October 2015 and has enjoyed a period of special success with the team, taking Olympic silver, and World Cup and European gold in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

“I am happy to be able to finish the project, even if it takes a little longer than expected,” he said of the extended stay in charge. “It is always an honour to work with such a talented group of players and staff. “

In parallel, the Belgian Federation had already found an agreement with van den Heuvel, Shane McLeod’s assistant since November 2015, and coach of Dutch defending champions HC Bloemendaal, to take over the team from December to lead her to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Euro Hockey League media release



All national hockey National Tournaments cancelled for 2020



Following ongoing discussions between Hockey New Zealand and its 32 member associations, a joint and unanimous decision has been made to cancel all National Tournaments for the 2020 hockey season.

Hockey New Zealand CEO Ian Francis said that while all involved were deeply saddened to lose an entire National Tournament season, the decision has been made in the best interests of community hockey.  “Our associations strongly believe that when hockey is able to be resumed this year, we need to get as many people as possible back on the turf and competing against one another.  Their focus needs to be on enabling people to participate in their local programmes and competitions, and Hockey New Zealand fully supports this position.”

Mr Francis expressed Hockey New Zealand’s appreciation for the outstanding leadership taken by the member associations in coming to such a difficult but necessary decision.

“We all recognise the importance and value of our national tournaments and know that many people will be very disappointed with this decision.  However, this year we need to prioritise making hockey accessible for players, coaches and umpires in our local communities for as much of the year as possible. This will help rebuild the well-being of our people within hockey and the broader sporting community”.

“While there will be no National Tournaments in 2020, depending on how the season evolves Associations may be in a position to work together to create regional events”.

Mr Francis said that while no decision had yet been made about the 2020 Secondary Schools Sports tournaments, Hockey New Zealand was currently in discussions with School Sports New Zealand, and would provide an update when more information is available.

Community hockey is due to restart on Saturday 2 May.  Hockey New Zealand and the member associations are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will update the hockey community if there is any change to this plan.

Mr Francis said Hockey New Zealand is now planning for an exciting 2021 representative season which will see the Vantage National U18 Tournament, the inaugural Ford National Hockey Championships and the National Masters Tournaments return as well as season three of the FIH Pro League and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

“The Vantage Black Sticks’ international programme is also currently on hold, with the suspension of FIH Pro League until May 15th and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021.  We will continue to update fans as more information comes to hand.”

As had been previously announced in consultation with UTSNZ and Hockey New Zealand, the National Tertiary Hockey Championships that were due to be held from the 6th – 8th of May are being postponed to a later date TBC.

Hockey New Zealand Media release



Hockey New Zealand cancels 2020 season

By The Hockey Paper



Hockey New Zealand aims to bring as many people as possible back to the turf after being forced to cancel all national tournaments for its 2020 season.

Hockey NZ admitted to being “deeply saddened” after making the decision to lose an entire season, but hopes to create separate regional events should the global health pandemic clear.

Hockey New Zealand chief Ian Francis said: “Our associations strongly believe that when hockey is able to be resumed this year, we need to get as many people as possible back on the turf and competing against one another.

“Their focus needs to be on enabling people to participate in their local programmes and competitions, and Hockey New Zealand fully supports this position.”

Community hockey is due to restart on May 2 while Hockey NZ is now planning for an 2021 representative season which will see the Vantage National U18 Tournament, the inaugural Ford National Hockey Championships and the National Masters Tournaments return as well as season three of the FIH Pro League and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

“The Vantage Black Sticks’ international programme is also currently on hold, with the suspension of FIH Pro League until May 15th and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021.

“We will continue to update fans as more information comes to hand.”

The Black Sticks’ teams had played a majority of their Pro League fictures, with clashes against India and China set for the end of May. Those matches will likely be cancelled.

The Hockey Paper



“Stay healthy, strong and safe!”



“Stay healthy, strong and safe!”. These are the words concluding a message from the FIH Athletes’ Committee published today to the attention of all hockey players around the globe.

“We all started playing hockey for the same reasons, love for the sport, playing with friends, competing together, winning and losing together, having fun. Because of the outbreak of the pandemic that was taken away from all of us. Given the nature of our sport, a team sport, not being with fellow teammates is a difficult time for us all”, the message reads.

“But health and safety come first. We strongly believe we should all follow the rules of the WHO and our own governments to make sure we, you, your family and loved ones stay healthy, strong and safe.”

The Committee goes on with urging players to stay active during these particularly challenging times: “Take this time to come up with ideas about adaptive training methods, spend more time with your family, maybe finish your studies or start your own company. Don’t let staying at home stop you from developing.”

The Committee then reasserts its role for all players around the world, at this time and beyond: “It is our job as the FIH AC to represent all of you around the globe and because of this pandemic we even feel more committed to be your voice. The international hockey agenda, and the rescheduling of the Olympics Tokyo 2020 will affect all teams and players. We will make sure all tournaments, games and other events will be taken in account when creating a hockey calendar for 2020, 2021 and beyond.”

The full message of the FIH Athletes’ Committee is available here.

FIH site



Valentin Altenburg opens up on how to tackle coronavirus and the mental impact it has on athletes

Valentin Altenburg, Germany's junior men’s hockey coach, talks about how to tackle the coronavirus and how it has mentally impacted athletes.

Uthra Ganesan


Valentin Altenburg said it was challenging to manage the spread of coronavirus in a country like India but insisted people's support was imperative.   -  Getty Images

While the entire world is struggling with the coronavirus, Germany has done well to keep the fatality rate low despite being among the top-five nations in terms of positive cases.

Valentin Altenburg, the German junior men’s hockey coach who also led the national team to a bronze at Rio Olympics, believes a joint effort from the government and people was the only way to ensure control.

“I think Germany took very early measures to contain the virus. So far the hospital situation is alright. The whole strategy is to ‘flatten the curve’, which means not too many people get very sick at the same time. The goal is that everyone can be treated as well as possible. I understand that, in some other countries that were hit early by the virus, not everyone could get the treatment they would need because they did not have enough capacity in hospitals,” he told Sportstar on Wednesday.

“As Germans, though, we still don’t know when the big wave is going to come, or if there will even be a big wave. If it is like now, everybody will have best possible treatment. It is difficult for me to say what you can learn from it but if you have enough materials, enough hospital capacity, very good measures from the government that people accept, that’s possibly the best way to dealing with the crisis right now,” the 38-year old based in Hamburg and currently on a two-week lockdown – Germany extended it to April 19.

He admitted it was challenging to manage the spread of the virus in a country like India – Altenburg has first-hand knowledge of the country from his time here for the 2016 Junior World Cup and the Hockey India League – but insisted people's support was imperative.

“We have seen pictures from India where a lot of people were leaving the big cities in a rush, and I believe it’s a huge challenge for a very big country and cities like Mumbai. The most fascinating aspect when I visited India was how many people live how close to each other, which is very bad for controlling the crisis. Everyone here is trying to not come closer than two meters but how can you do that in a city like Mumbai? That’s a challenge and I don’t have answers.

“I feel the German government has taken some strong measures but, at the same time, they have had a lot of support from the people. It will be very important in India also that people are supporting government measures,” he said, when asked what could be the lessons for India.

Altenburg has also fallen back on technology to stay connected with his team and staff. “There are no team trainings. We have started challenges and everybody does some work at home and keeps everyone else posted via Whatsapp groups or through video calls. We do a lot of team chats and once a week the coaching staff meets at night and talks about what the crisis does to us personally, what we would hope for when everything gets over and what our next steps could be,” he said.

A bigger concern was dealing with the mental issues, specially among junior players. “We work with mental coaches because there are a lot of questions and insecurities. Some of them were planning around the Tokyo Olympics, now they have to re-arrange everything. The younger kids had European Championships but it was cancelled and some of them won’t play now because next year they would be too old. There is a lot of psychological insecurity,” he said.

He added that athletes found it difficult to stay indoors. “It is a struggle to stay inside for sportspersons because we are used to a lot of physical activity. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who don’t have even the basic stuff we should consider ourselves lucky. Honestly, I think right now there are more important things than sports but the bigger question is, what happens if this continues for more weeks or months?

“So far, the perception in Germany is that it’s going to take time. Everybody has come together to help each other but how long can we contain this? There is fear of finances. We will have a big problem -- personal, enterprises and for the country, even the whole world economy -- if this continues much longer,” he said.

Sportstar



English adventure on ice

By AFTAR SINGH


Still hopeful: Farah Ayuni Yahya is keeping her fingers crossed that the knockout stages of the England National Women’s Hockey semi-final match would be played in May.

KUALA LUMPUR: National women’s goalkeeper Farah Ayuni Yahya and defender Nuraini Abdul Rashid had been on the verge of a glorious season in England. They had taken their club to the England National Women’s Hockey League semi-final.And then, disappointment.

Both the players, who played for East Grindstead Club in the Premier Division since last September, were ordered to return last week due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The hockey league has been put on ice.

The duo, both key players for their club, had helped the team finish runners-up in the league and they were to face third-place Hampstead and Westminster in the semi-final match tomorrow.

League winners Surbiton had been scheduled to take on fourth placed Buckingham in the other semi-final.

The 31-year-old Farah, who has featured for East Grinstead since 2018, said that she and Nuraini were delighted to have helped their club emerge runners-up with 39 points from 18 matches.

East Grinstead won 12 matches, drew three and lost three in the 10-team league. Surbiton bagged the title with 46 points from 15 wins, a draw and two defeats.

“It feels great to have finished second best in the Premier Division and we were looking forward to playing in the semi-finals and help our club into the final.

“We were confident of beating Hampstead and Westminster and I was already dreaming of playing in the final.

“But the outbreak came at a terrible time. We are not sure when the situation will improve in England, ” said the police inspector based in Bukit Aman in Kuala Lumpur.

“I don’t know whether the semi-finals and final matches will even be played as the virus is spreading very fast in Europe.

“Nuraini and I were told to return to Malaysia as the club were concerned about our health and safety. We returned last week and are both quarantined in our homes for 14 days, ” said Farah, who has 200 caps for Malaysia since 2007.

The 30-year-old Nuraini, who joined her friend at East Grinstead last year, said they were still keeping their fingers crossed that the knockout stages would be played in May.

“We were told that if the knockout matches could not be played because of the virus, the top two teams in the Premier League (Surbiton and East Grinstead) would feature in the European League.

“We hope to return to England either in May or June to play in the European League. It will be a dream come true to play in the European League.

“I enjoyed playing in England League, which is one of top leagues in the world, ” said Nuraini.

Both Farah and Nuraini returned home last November and helped Malaysia win the indoor hockey gold medal in the Philippines SEA Games. The duo also played in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) for two months from January before returning to England at the end of February.

Farah played for Blue Warriors (Police) in the MHL while Nuraini featured for debutants Hockey Academy (Hockademy) of Kuala Lumpur. Both are also likely to be called up to the national team on May 1 but will see out their European adventure before joining the team.

The Star of Malaysia



Hockey’s best April Fools Day jokes

By The Hockey Paper



Portsmouth HC is rolling out Zorb Hockey next season. To increase player safey, all outfield players will be forced to wear increased protective equipment. FIH Press Officer, Evan Alarf, was quoted as saying: “This ridiculous suggestion will ruin the sport of Hockey for years to come”.

    Members are encouraged to add availability to the website for 11&12 June, where remaining league and cup fixtures will be settled via penalty shuffles at Bisham Abbey.
    Preference will be given to those with experience of running penalties. Please email David Ellcock with queries

    — NPUA (@NPUAhockey) April 1, 2020

For those who don’t know one end of the stick from the other, the Reverse Stick revealed that the FIH had revised the rules on stick specifications, six years after changing the rules due to iffy sticks.

    BREAKING NEWS@FIH_Hockey has announced the latest innovation to our game by revising the definition of stick specification in the 'Rules of Hockey'. This now allows stick manufacturers to commence the production of the 'double-headed' stick.
    1/2 pic.twitter.com/dwFsFOzmqK

    — The Reverse Stick🌏🏑🎙 (@thereversestick) April 1, 2020

The Canterbury HC club shop marketing department has kicked into gear to produce a new range to its collection.

    We're excited to announce a new range of #toiletrolls in @CanterburyHC colours 🥳. Club Shop Manager April Phoul said "With many members using toilet rolls as balls this is the natural extension to our kit range" #Greenandwhitearmy

    Get in touch to order yours now! pic.twitter.com/97JIzN8o7a

    — Canterbury Junior HC (@CanterburyJnrHC) April 1, 2020

Beeston men and women have both been crowned Premier Division winners, according to… Beeston HC. In a statement, the club quoted England Hockey as saying: “We decided that although all fixtures have been played in the Men’s and Women’s Premier Divisions, the simplest way to resolve Euro Hockey League qualification was alphabetical order.”

The Hockey Paper

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