Zimbabwe, Zambia to clash in hockey series

Farirayi Kahwemba
The astroturf surface at St. Johns College in Harare will be a hive of activity from August 11 to 13 as ten teams from Zimbabwe and Zambia battle it out in a hockey development series.

The series is being hosted by the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) as part of efforts to improve the
standard of the sport in the country.

The Zimbabwe and Zambian teams will play against each other at under 13, under 14, under 16, under 18, senior men and women levels.

This is the second development series featuring teams from the two countries after the previous one – held last year in Zambia – proved a
resounding success.

The matches are very important for both teams as they are preparing for the Paris Olympic qualifiers – to be held in South Africa later
this year.

HAZ is also using the games to prepare for the Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup scheduled for November 29 to December 10.

The global showcase will be staged in Santiago, Chile.

Almost 400 hockey players will take part in the series at St. Johns College during the three days, providing some exciting entertainment for fans of the sport expected to throng the venue.

Sarah Bennett, who is the HAZ secretary general, explained how the series will benefit both Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Bennett pointed out that one of the main objectives of the games was to promote an interest in hockey in both countries.

“We are using this series to develop hockey in the two countries among the various age groups that will be taking part.
The aim is to spread the sport so that we develop interest among as many young people as possible,” said Bennett.

“For the series this year, we have also included the men and women senior teams. Playing against each other will give the teams a perfect opportunity to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers,” added Bennett.

Bennett revealed that the long-term intention of the series is to include more Southern African teams like South Africa, who are among the highest-ranked countries in the sport on the African continent.

“We are hoping to expand this series so that we also include South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Malawi so that we can help grow the sport in the region.

“A bigger series with more participating countries and teams will play a more meaningful and positive role in our development initiatives,” Bennett said.

Bennett explained that over the years, playing against international teams had resulted in Zimbabwe improving on their rankings.

“The standards of hockey keep on improving and this can be seen in the improvement of our national teams on the world rankings,”
Bennett said.

“The national women’s team have improved from their raking of 78th in the world in 2019 to their current 39th this year. Our men’s team was rated 54th in the country but are now 47th in the world,” said Bennett.

“Zimbabwe can only continue to improve on their rankings if we continue playing international matches,” Bennett explained.

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