Team SA withdraws hockey sides from African Games

18 March 2024 08:26| © SuperSport
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Patience Shikwambana © Gallo Images

Team SA has withdrawn both its men’s and women’s hockey teams from the 13th African Games currently under way in Accra, Ghana, based on recommendations and guidelines as set down by the International Hockey Federation.

The decision was taken as a result of the venue not being sufficiently prepared to stage the competition. The Local Organising Committee (LOC) and African Hockey Federation have been informed of the decision taken by Team SA.

Despite repeated assurances that the pitches would be ready for international standard competition, the pitches are unsuitable. In correspondence sent to the LOC, Team SA team leader Patience Shikwambana stated: “Over and above making this decision, our SA Hockey Federation consulted with Sports Flooring Warehouse, a South African-based specialist in carpet laying, and an FIH-recognised service provider. They have also advised us – having analysed the images we shared with them – that the field is not satisfactory and may cause harm to the athletes.

Shikwambana also noted: “The rescheduling of the hockey competition, on three numerous occasions has, in addition, caused an inconvenience to us logistically, as a team, where we had to arrange for both the teams to fly to Ghana in time for the commencement of the competition.

“In the first Chef De Missions’ site visit meeting at the end of October 2023, we were advised that there would be test events to ensure the readiness of venues before the start of each competition. This, unfortunately, has not been the case for Hockey.

In addition, according to the FIH field certification guideline: 'If a field that is not certified is being considered as a tournament venue, it should be tested at the earliest convenience to demonstrate compliance with this specification.'

“These tests should be conducted months in advance before a competition – which, in this case, have not taken place. Furthermore, ‘The FIH has a number of accredited test institutes, and these have accredited engineers located around the world’, which we are not certain if they have been involved and provided the necessary certification."

Team SA have already qualified both men’s and women’s hockey teams for the 2024 Paris Olympics, and with the African Games being held in close proximity to Paris, it was deemed a potential injury risk if Team SA competed under the circumstances in Accra. Shikwambana thanked the LOC for their understanding and pledged to continue supporting the LOC in advancing these Games for the benefit of the African Union, the LOC and the athletes.