Qualification for the Olympic Games is drawing nearer as the South African men’s hockey team prepares to participate in the African Hockey Road to Paris 2024.
The qualifiers are set to be held in Pretoria from 29 October to 5 November.
Speaking to News24, newly appointed head coach of the men’s hockey team, Cheslyn Gie, believes it will be a difficult qualifying tournament as his side has not had much time practising together.
“I feel it will be a tough qualifying tournament because we have not had much time together as a team due to the lack of finances available to the team,” said Gie.
Gie is hopeful that the team will win the upcoming qualifying tournament but acknowledges that it won’t be easy.
South Africa has played against Egypt in the last three finals and Gie expects the competition to be fierce as they bid for an Olympic berth.
“Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria have all made big improvements and were all tough matches at the last qualifier,” he said.
The men’s hockey team won the Nations Cup held in Potchefstroom last year, which guaranteed them a spot in the Pro League, where they would have played against the best teams in the world.
However, the South African Hockey Association (SAHA) withdrew from the competition due to the lack of finances.
Gie said that if the team qualifies for the Olympics, he believes that the team has the potential to make it to the quarter-finals.
Last year, South Africa made it to the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Gie feels the team needs more practice time to be ready for the Olympics.
If the team qualifies for the Olympic Games, it will be Gie’s first real test since taking over the helm after South Africa went winless in the Hockey World Cup in India earlier this year.
The South African men’s hockey team has proven to be good, finishing 10th at the Tokyo Olympics.
News24 also spoke to captain Dayaan Cassiem, who said that the team is confident about playing in the qualifier and believes that a win is possible.
“In this tournament, we are just going out to win and make sure that we compete in every single game,” he said.
Cassiem agrees with Gie in saying that the Olympic qualifiers will be tough as they need to figure out what to expect.
In qualifying history, South Africa usually plays against Egypt in the finals but won’t take any other nation for granted.
“We don’t know what to expect, so every single team will be our biggest opponent for this upcoming tournament,” said Cassiem.
He said that the team is disappointed with SAHA’s decision to withdraw from the Pro League after having qualified to play in the league but will not let this setback get in the way of performing well and making the country proud.
“I think our preparations will go well and we’ll make the country proud,” said Cassiem.
“It’s tough to stay motivated, but we just have to keep going, and I think the team will be ready.”
Source : News24