World Cups and Olympic Games

World Cups and Olympic Games

The Women’s Hockey World Cup is being hosted in London this summer. The 15 days between July
21st and August 5th will see the best hockey players from around the world descend on the
former Olympic venue in Stratford, East London. Let me say that again… THE WORLD CUP
IS COMING TO LONDON… AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!! I’M SO EXCITED!!!

This throws up a curious juxtaposition between the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games has a special place in the mindset of sports fans, as it is arguably the
foremost sporting event that hockey is involved in. It provokes passion, glory and good
memories for people at regular intervals throughout the lives of, not only those who
participate, but those who enjoy the spectacle of an elite level multi sports festival.

The Olympics Games is also a special event for the sport of field hockey. It has held it’s
own as a part of the modern Olympics for many years now – the men’s tournament being
introduced in the 1908 London Games and becoming a permanent fixture in Amsterdam
1928. For the women it was a bit later, coming into the fold as part of the 1980 Moscow
Games. The Olympic Games is a very special event. as the pre-eminent multi-sports
festival for athletes from around the world, it brings a wide range of sports to the
attention of people who may not necessarily of have noticed beforehand. The gold medal
victories for the Great Britain men’s team in 1988 (Seoul) and the women’s team in 2016
(Rio de Janeiro) captured the public’s imagination and providing us with names such as
Imran Sherwani, Sean Kerly, Alex Danson, goalkeeper Maddie Hinch and, scorer of the
winning penalty in the 2016 final, Hollie Webb (now Pearne-Webb). The hope being that
this success can inspire people to take up the sport for the first time, or to come back to
it after an absence. This increased public awareness of the sport that comes from being a
part of the modern games and provides a chance for hockey to become self-sufficient and
move towards financial independence. The popularity of the Games also provides a certain
amount of prestige with winning a gold medal.

However, the World Cup to my mind is and should be the pinnacle of achievement in the
sport of hockey. It is a celebration of all of the specific talent that the world of hockey has
to offer. It is the best of the best of whom ever choose to participate in this fantastic
game of ours. It is our chance to show off the best of our best.

The first ever World Cup tournament was a men’s only affair, based in Barcelona, Spain at
the Real Club de Polo which Pakistan Won by beating the host nation team Spain and India
taking bronze just beating Kenya. Women soon joined the party in 1974, with the first
Women’s World Cup being hosted in the French Riviera town of Mandelieu won by the
Netherlands with Argentina taking the silver medal and West Germany beating India to
bronze.

Hockey is very much an international sport. The current men’s world champions are the
Australians, having won it for the third time in 2014. Pakistan are still the most successful
men’s team with four wins, winning the inaugural tournament in 1971 and most recently in
1994. Other successful nations have included the Netherlands (three times), Germany
(twice) and India just the once in 1975. Honourable mentions for the Spanish who were
runners up in 1971 and 1998 and England, who came second in 1986, as well as fourth in
2010 and 2014. Additionally, South Korea have proven that India and Pakistan aren’t the
only hockey playing nations from Asia, finishing fourth as recently as 2002 and 2006, with
Malaysia also securing fourth spot in 1975. The most successful African team at the men’s
World Cup was Kenya, who also came fourth in 1971.

The women’s tournament has also seen a broad international flavour. The current world
champions are the Netherlands, who also hold the records for the most wins, with seven
Other successful women’s national teams are Argentina, Australia and Germany, with two
gold medals a piece. These nations have tended to dominant the women’s side of the
setup, securing many silver and bronze medals in addition to their gold wins, although,
other honourable mentions include Canada, who won silver in 1983 and came fourth in
1986, as well as the United States of America and Belgium who have secured third and
fourth place finishes over the years. China, South Korea and the former Soviet Union have
also won bronze medals in tournaments gone by. The highest that England have ranked
was in 2010, winning the bronze medal, but also came fourth twenty years earlier in 1990.

This year, my home town will be hosting the Women’s World Cup in for the first time in its
history. This will be a fantastic event showcasing the best talent from all four corners of
the globe. The favourites for the tournament will undoubtedly be the Netherlands. As the
current world and European champions they are well worth their FIH #1 ranking. However,
England’s women are ranked FIH #2 internationally, are current Olympic champions and
won the EuroHockey Nations tournament as recently as 2015, which was also hosted at the
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. New Zealand will be coming in as Commonwealth
Games winners, so will fancy their chances of medalling, Australia will expect to do well,
as will Argentina and Germany. As a coach and a player, I will also be looking forward to
seeing the contrasting styles of play and approaches towards hockey that come from a
multi-cultural event. South Korea, China, India and Japan will be representing all things
Asian. Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Italy (more on the Italians in a separate The Hockey
Family article) will be making up the remaining European contingent, USA will be showing
what the North Americans can do, as will the South African’s for their part of the world.

All I can say now is come on England. Let’s show the world how to host an International
tournament and how to play hockey…