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03.10.2005 Hockey

Low interest in African Hockey championship

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Pretoria, Oct. 3, GNA - It has been two clear days since the African Hockey Championship kick off in Pretoria, South Africa, and the ordinary man on the street knows nothing about the event. Undoubtedly, South Africa is one of the world's known rugby nations and the popularity of the energy-sucking sport has dwarfed every other sports.

The low interest in hockey has been a source of worry to some big guns across the continent as epitomised in a message by Els Van Breda Vriesman, President of the International Hockey Federation. She said: "I am saddened by the low interest in the game and the number of participating countries."

Surprisingly, not a single line on the tournament has been reported in any of the national newspapers - they are all busy reporting on the Currie Cup, one of the biggest rugby championships, and a slice on South Africa's World Cup qualifier against DR Congo.

So far, the only FM Station that has carried a story on the tournament has been Notsweding FM. Even that was just about the results and the fact that South Africa hockey team has atoned for the inadequacies of the national soccer team.

Some of the most listened to stations including Bela FM, Jakaranda FM, Metro FM and Highveldukhoz FM Stereo would rather prefer to play music than to run commentaries.

And apart two Ghanaian sports journalists from the Ghana News Agency and the Graphic Sports, not a single foreign journalist is here. Sourcing information on the tournament is one of the most expensive commodities one could get to the extent that officials cannot even tell the edition of the tournament.

So by our own calculation, we concluded that since the competition started in 1974 and it is held every four years, this edition should certainly be the ninth for the men, while the women's, which started in the 90s, should be the fourth.

The only people attracted to the event are the University students, perhaps because the tournament is being held on the campus of the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria.

Kenya and Zimbabwe's withdrawal from the championship due to socio-economic problems took out some of the flavour from the games. All these notwithstanding, the competition has been hot as South Africa and Egypt have proved that they really belong to a different category.

The two clash on Tuesday and the result would go a long way in determining which of them wins the ultimate.

In all, 17 officiating and technical officials, including Ghana's Elizabeth King, Haga Laryea and Minor Atipoe plus 40 teams officials and 180 players from the five participating countries - Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia - are taking part in the week-long event, which ends on Saturday, October 8.

The tournament also serves as a qualifying series for next year's Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany, for the males while the women go to Madrid.

The winners in the male and female division qualify automatically for the World event but the runner up in the male category would battle other countries yet to be known in a play-off.