The International Day of Sport for Peace and Development highlights all that is good, honest and compassionate about the international hockey community.
From the Human Rights Day Festivals that are taking place across 10 centres in South Africa to the newly-formed Hockey Activity in Afghanistan; from the work of a young woman in Vanuatu to promote Women’s Rights, to the work of a coach in Argentina providing hockey opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities; and the empathy and kindness shown by nations of Europe to support Ukraine hockey players at a time of dreadful distress. Wherever you look in the world, there are many shining examples of the wealth of humanity within our hockey community.
Here are some of those actions and activities in more detail.
During the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) Cup in Jakarta in March, the AHF ensured that Peace in Sport was centre stage. A campaign was launched named: ‘Give Peace a Chance’.
Chief Executive of the AHF, Tayyab Ikram and his team organised an event to demonstrate the importance of peace and development. Sports leaders from Indonesia and from across Asia joined hands with the AHF to perform a demonstration of Peace and Development. In a speech, Ikram invited the sporting world to join hands together with the International Olympic Committee under the leadership of President IOC Mr Bach to unite, promote and contribute to the global peace to the best of their abilities.
The Afghanistan Hockey Federation took an enormous leap forward in terms of peace and development when it held its first indoor hockey tournament in March.
Supported by the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee, as well as the AHF, the event saw young athletes from five major cities across Afghanistan participate in the event.
The Asian Hockey Federation is positive that hockey will contribute a great deal to the regional development and stability in Afghanistan. Support from the AHF is particularly concentrated on infrastructure development and equipment supply. There is a special focus on providing hockey opportunities for young people and women.
Across South Africa, a series of 10 festivals are being held to promote physical activity among children. This is part of the UNESCO Charter on Sport and Physical Activity and promotes values of respect, self-discipline and the importance of activity to good physical and mental health.
A total of 1,000 participants and 80 coaches will be involved in this exciting initiative, and with all attention currently focused on the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup in Potchefstroom, the timing of these Festivals couldn’t be better.
While much great work is carried out by organisations, national associations and continental federations, there are also many, many examples of individuals stepping out of the ordinary. We have two such examples from Vanuatu and Argentina.
Vanuatu, which is within the Oceania Hockey Federation (OHF), is home to Jess Fatnowna.
The 23-year-old has been working as a leader and mentor on the OHF Hook in4 Health programme.
OHF is the lead organisation running Hookin4Health in Vanuatu and PNG and Jess is one of the Hockey Leader trainers who works with partner organisation Cairns Aspire. The initiative aims to empower women, girls and people with disabilities to live well, learn well and lead well by removing barriers to participation in sport and physical activity. OHF is also partnered by Hockey Vanuatu, Hockey PNG, Hockey Australia, the Australian Government, CairnsAspire, Family Planning NSW and Flinders University.
Fatnowna has been training potential leaders via a mix of Zoom calls and podcasts. She shares her knowledge, experience and expertise to help other young leaders deliver programmes that enable learning, decision-making and leadership, as well as addressing issues such as gender inequality, and sexual health and reproduction in an inclusive and dignified way.
Talking about Fatnowna’s contribution, Julie McNeil, CEO of Aspire Cairns Community Limited, said: ‘Jess Fatnowna is an already experienced and skilled programme mentor. She does not shy away from a challenge, and this tenacity sets her apart from her peers. She consistently demonstrates a can-do attitude and will find a way to solve a problem.’
For the past four years PAHF has been supporting initiatives across the American continent creating access to inclusive hockey. Such inclusion style programmes enable individuals with intellectual disabilities to develop their own cognitive, physical and emotional capacities in a supportive environment. This is essential to the continued growth of the sport.
Here we outline just four examples of how inclusive hockey programmes are developing across the continent.
In Buenos Aires “las Lionas” and “los Liones” inclusive programmes has been growing and developing since the Hockey ID programme launched at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games (YOG).
Chile has also developed, with great success, their own “Hock-in” inclusive training and events programme supported by their national hockey federation and Special Olympic Chile.
Furthermore, highlighting the importance of developing access to multi-sport and physical literacy programmes, Barbados has launched initiatives to increase awareness and access to specialised coaching.
In the USA, successful programmes in Long Island and New York have been added to with programmes starting in Central PA and Washington DC.
Lastly in Canada, with the priority of increasing participants’ optimal experiential learning and wellness, coach education, resources and practical experience are being developed as a priority in creating inclusion style programmes.
Our final highlight is one borne of a human tragedy. As the political situation in Ukraine worsened, the U21 Ukraine women’s hockey team undertook the dangerous and hazardous journey from Ukraine to Poland, and onto Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
The original aim was to help the team travel onwards to South Africa for the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup, but understandably, simply getting away from the carnage and destruction in their country was challenge enough for the young hockey players.
The operation to help the athletes evacuate was led by the Polish Hockey Association, with support from the KNHB and the DHB – the Netherlands and German Hockey Federations.
The Polish Hockey Association general secretary Piotr Wikonski explained that 13 Ukraine athletes travelled to the border with Poland where officials from the Polish Hockey Association met them. They then travelled on to be hosted by members of the hockey community in Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
Not only did the 13 members of the Ukraine U21 team arrive in welcoming European countries, a further 80 athletes – mainly from a sports school on the Russia/Ukraine border – turned up at DTV Hannover Tennis and Hockey Club. The club members responded instantly and all the refuges are now housed with 30 host families.
Club President Julius Schulze-Borges who is hosting six refugees, said: ‘These stories make you see your own life from a completely different perspective. It does something to you.’
Among the refugees is the Ukraine international Yuliia Shevchenko and her sister. She said: ‘I feel calmer here. And our parents know we're safe here. My grandmother and my father are too old to flee, my mum stayed with them.’ At this point her voice breaks.
In the wake of the arrival of the athletes in Poland and the neighbouring countries, Piotr Wikonski reflects on what he has witnessed: 'The last few weeks have been an extraordinary experience, they show the power of the word “solidarity”.
‘When I went to pick up the girls and the coach from the border, I was surprised by their calmness. After a few hours of traveling together, eating together, training for the first time since the war began, I realised that it was not peace, but fear and a sense of helplessness.
‘It's amazing to see the change in the eyes of these young girls. From emptiness, through a little hope to a smile.
‘When today I see photos of girls in the Netherlands, although the lack of participation in the World Cup is disappointing, I am glad that I took part in their way to a safe world.
‘Every day, when Polish clubs inform about another young player from Ukraine, whose family has found shelter in Poland, I know that the "hockey family" is not just empty words.’