SA hockey youth aim at Olympics

THE inaugural African Youth Olympics Hockey Tournament for boys and girls will be staged in East London from February 28 to March 13.

THE inaugural African Youth Olympics Hockey Tournament for boys and girls will be staged in East London from February 28 to March 13.

SA Hockey Association chief executive Marissa Langeni said five countries had already confirmed their participation.

The countries are Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia and host country South Africa, who have been monopolising hockey on the continent.

"Nigeria and Botswana have indicated to us that they will not make it to the tournament due to financial constraints," Langeni said.

"The South African youngsters who will participate in this tournament are part of our high performance programme and they are geared up for the event.

"We are working hard to build a formidable team that will not only qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but do well in that tournament.

"There is another team that we are preparing for the 2012 London Olympics and we want to see hockey becoming a popular sport in schools and townships."

Meanwhile, Langeni also said their senior men's squad will take part in the International Hockey Federation World Cup in New Delhi, India, from February 28 to March 13.

South Africa are in Group B with Australia, England, India, Pakistan and Spain. Those in Group A are Argentina, Canada, Germany, Korea, Holland and New Zealand.

"For the men's World Cup South Africa are the continental champions of Africa, so that's how they qualified for the tournament," Langeni said.

"We are ranked 15th in the world and seventh in terms of the Commonwealth Games.

"(SA Olympic governing body) Sascoc's qualification criteria for the Commonwealth Games is that we need to be ranked between one and five.

"This is an important tournament for the men's team as the women have already qualified as per Sascoc's criteria. They are fourth in the Commonwealth and considered medal contenders."

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