The Guyana National Women’s Hockey team departed today for Mendoza, Argentina to face their toughest opposition yet when they compete in the PAHF Cup, which is a qualifier for the Hockey World Cup scheduled for The Hague, Netherlands in June 2014.
The team which is combination of experience and youth has been preparing since early in 2012 for this event and it will be the first time that Guyana has ever appeared in a hockey PAHF Cup.
There are a number of firsts for Guyana in this event as it is also the first time a Guyanese hockey team will be competing in Argentina and the first time that the Guyanese women will face Argentina. The Argentine Ambassador to Guyana, the Honourable Luis A. Martino, met with officials of the Guyana Hockey Board to discuss the momentous achievement and promised to begin discussions on further collaboration between the two countries with regard to the development of the sport in Guyana.
The Guyana women’s national team travelled a long and arduous road to qualify for the PAHF Cup which features only the top eight teams by qualification in all of the Americas. After returning to international competition following nearly two decades of absence, the Guyana women’s team entered the Central American & Caribbean Games in 2010 ranked at the very bottom of the Pan American rankings.
According to head coach and President of the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB), the team did not qualify for a spot in the competition but only managed to secure a place after Cuba withdrew from the tournament. Fernandes went on to say that the team was able to capitalize on the opportunity through an Olympic Solidarity grant made possible through the Guyana Olympic association which provides funding for national teams of Olympic sports during an Olympic cycle. While the squad does a lot of its own fund-raising, Fernandes indicated that it would have been impossible for them to find
the required funds to properly prepare and participate in the games which were held in Puerto Rico. After entering the competition as the lowest ranked team, Guyana emerged in 6th place out of 8.
Their performance in Puerto Rico permitted Guyana to then enter the PAHF Challenge in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in July 2011 although they would still be ranked below all other participants. The Guyanese ladies were surprise finalists, registering victories against Paraguay and Bermuda, a draw with hosts Brazil and lost only to eventual winners Uruguay. The top two finishers in the PAHF Challenge qualified for the prestigious PAHF Cup which is the region’s World Cup qualifier.
From their lowly ranked position of 18th in the Americas in 2010, Guyana now finds itself among the region’s elite teams as they enter the PAHF Cup seeded the lowest of eight teams. The competition includes world beaters Argentina (ranked 2 in the world), USA (10), Chile (18), Canada (23), Trinidad and Tobago (27), Mexico (30), Uruguay (50) and Guyana (58).
Guyana finds itself in Pool A with pre-tournament favourites Argentina, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago. While the team arrives in Mendoza on 19th September, they will find time for some light training on the artificial pitch until their first match against Canada on the 21st. Guyana will then face Trinidad and Tobago the following day, before facing Argentina two days later to complete the pool round.
When asked the question of Guyana’s objectives and expectations, Head Coach Fernandes indicated that the top teams in the competition were beyond the reach of the others.
In his opinion winning a medal in this competition would not be a realistic objective as there are world class teams in the competition who train twice per day on artificial pitches with a professional coaching staff of several persons. Fernandes opined that the Guyanese team needed to aim toward securing wins against some of their opponents in an effort to continue its upward drive in world hockey and improve its global ranking. “Rome was not built in a day” remarked Fernandes “so we need to improve incrementally, especially given our severe handicap of not having proper hockey facilities here in Guyana”. Fernandes added that the recently installed artificial grass mat at Bourda was of great benefit to the team although he lamented the timing as they were only able to use it for a few weeks.
Questioned further as to whether the team should make the effort to travel so far for a competition where they are unlikely to be victorious, Fernandes indicated that it would not be wise for the Federation and athletes to set boundaries for themselves. “If persons only competed when they were likely to win, then the Olympics would comprise of a handful of athletes, and no one would ever have a success story of achieving more than they thought possible. These ladies have qualified for the opportunity to share the field with the best in the world. We feel that they deserve the opportunity and we should not place artificial barriers to success based on what we think is possible,” Fernandes pointed out.
The team has managed to fund the expensive trip through their own fund-raising parties and take-away lunches along with support from the Guyana Olympic Association and some private sector companies.
The team comprises mostly of players who have been competing for Guyana over
the past few years with one new player, 14 year old Aliyah Gordon, who will be the youngest player in the competition. “Aliyah is an exceptional talent” Fernandes noted “She is very quick and skilful and we hope that she performs well. A lot of the team’s success will be placed on the shoulders of our most experienced player, overseas-based midfielder Leigh Sandison, and the defence of goalkeeper Alysa Xavier and sweeper Ulrica Sutherland.” The full squad of 16 selected are Alysa Xavier, Ulrica Sutherland, Tiffany Solomon, Marisha Rodrigues, Vanessa Pires, Trisha Woodroffe, Marzana Fiedtkou, Leigh Sandison, Ashley DeGroot, Chantelle Fernandes (Captain), Gabriella Xavier, Kerensa Fernandes, Samantha Fernandes, Cora Towler, Aliyah Gordon and Janella Munroe. The Manager is Rawl Davson, Coach Philip Fernandes and Assistant Coach Peter DeGroot.
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