Hockey teams receive rousing send-off

Hockey teams receive rousing send-off
Hockey teams receive rousing send-off

Africa-Press – Namibia. NAMIBIA’s men and women’s field hockey teams received a rousing farewell yesterday ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations finals which start in Accra, Ghana on Monday.

At a function organised by the teams’ main sponsor, MTC, local musician Big Ben and poet Franklin Shitaleni gave stirring performances, while the president of the Namibia Hockey Union, Reagon Graig and John Ekongo of MTC gave inspirational speeches to send the teams off. Graig said the Namibia Hockey Union had invested a lot in both teams and believed in them.

“Since I became the president of the NHU, I have always said that we need to keep the athlete at the centre of everything we do, so from a governing body perspective I will always think about their safety and support and whatever we can do to make them perform at their best,” he said.

“You are going to represent your country, so you should do so with pride. I know you have trained hard, so all I expect is that you give your best,” he added.

Ekongo said he was impressed by the unity and focus that the team displayed, and recounted the passion and determination of the NHU’s former president Marc Nel, who passed away last year.

“For three years Marc kept knocking at our doors for assistance and we kept turning him away. He would just say it’s not a problem, John, today you have won, but next year I’ll be back and at some point I will win and convince you, and he eventually did,” he said.

“You have delivered way beyond your ability and your capacity and way beyond what any other nation can comprehend of a small nation like ours with only 2,2 million people, so go and make your country proud,” he added.

Both the men and women’s teams wrapped up their preparations with victories against invitation teams in their final warmup matches on Wednesday evening.

The women’s team faced a strong invitation team including several national players like Caitlyn and Jaime Gillies, Azaylee Philander, Jocelle Deysel and Jerrica Cormack and gave a good account of themselves to win the match 2-1.

The two sides weighed up evenly in a tactical first half of few chances, with Tara Myburgh and Gina Olles coming close for Namibia, while Philander and Deysel had efforts saved by Namibian keeper Maxi Smith.

Namibia finally broke the deadlock early in the second half when Myburgh had a shot blocked, but Gina Olles followed up to put the rebound into the net.

Namibia continued to attack, with Anthea Coetzee shooting narrowly wide, before Myburgh pounced onto a loose ball in the box to stab it into the net and put them 2-0 ahead.

The invitation side upped the tempo with Philander hitting the post from a short corner, and they finally opened their account in the final quarter when a Philander shot deflected off a Namibian defender into the net. Namibia, however, finished stronger, forcing two more short corners, before running out worthy 2-0 victors.

The men’s team also put in a fine performance to beat an invitation team 5-2. In their previous meeting against the invitation side, Namibia were pushed all the way before winning 6-4, but on Wednesday they gave a much more polished performance to run out comfortable winners.

The invitation side took the lead when Kevin Barnard scored from a short corner, but Namibia soon drew level when Kave Tjikuniva stabbed a loose ball into the net at the end of the first quarter.

La Cock put Namibia ahead for the first time, scoring from a short corner, but Nico Jacobs immediately replied from another short corner, and by half time there was still nothing separating the two sides.

Damien Schutz created several good chances for the invitation side with some strong surges from the midfield, but they could not capitalise, and Namibia took advantage as they stepped up the tempo in the final 20 minutes.

Josh van der Merwe put them 3-2 ahead with a fine solo goal, chipping the ball over Robin Kambinda into the net, while another short corner goal by La Cock put them 4-2 ahead at the end of the third quarter.

In the final quarter La Cock completed his hat-trick with another short corner goal, as Namibia ran out comfortable winners. Both teams fly out to Ghana this afternoon, via Addis Ababa, where they will overnight before arriving in Accra tomorrow.

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