Gaining popularity within the expat community

KUWAIT: For more than 50 years field hockey has been silently gaining popularity within the expat community in Kuwait. At the highest level, field hockey is a fast moving, highly skilled game, with players using fast moves with the stick, quick accurate passing, and hard hits, in attempts to keep possession and move the ball towards the goal. Tackling with physical contact and otherwise physically obstructing players is not permitted. Some of the tactics used resemble football (soccer), but with greater ball speed. Though it is often dwarfed by sports like soccer, basketball and cricket, field hockey is now making its mark in Kuwait.

Andres Perez San Emeterio Spanish Junior National player and Kuwait Independence Hockey Club star player had taken the initiative to spread this great sport to next generation and among the Kuwaitis. Before Ramadan and the schools summer holidays a kids games was organized along with senior players of field Hockey Clubs. It was a great pleasure to see the upcoming promising players like Fahad Tareq AlOun , Jaime Perez San Emeterio, Ella Goitiandia who impressed the crowd.

There was a time when field hockey was a contact sport. As years passed and rules changed, however, field hockey started to evolve into the modern game is it is today and stick skills became the focal point. Physical contact fell out of the equation and the sport became much more technical.

A few reasons why field hockey has been increasing in popularity in recent years are listed below.

1) Increases Skill-set.

In field hockey involves players have to use a Hockey Stick to guide the ball into a small net which is guarded by a Goalie. Though it may sound simple, using a stick to guide the ball into the net, bypassing the goalie, all while evading opposition players and defending the ball can be very difficult. It takes a lot of skill and excellent coordination to wield a ball into the goal using the stick which is basically an extension of a hockey player's hand. The more professional a player gets, he masters skills such as dribbling with the ball, trapping the ball, and becomes more precise in every move he makes.

2) Scoring is a fine art

Scoring in Hockey is not easy as compared to some other sports, because the goal is relatively small and the goalie makes himself quite large in the small box to close down shots aimed at the goal. Also, scoring from outside of the D area is not allowed which means scoring has to be precise. To add to the above challenges, there are defenders rushing at the player trying to block his path and provide protection for their goal.

3) Pace of the game.

When compared to other sports swing speeds, a field Hockey ball speed hits 103mph, which is a lot faster than Cricket stroke which is only 67mph. The high speed at which the ball travels adds a level of danger which spikes the adrenaline and makes the game more enticing for anyone seeking a little thrill.

Hockey is such a fast-paced sport, players don't have time to dwell on a mistake or take a break; if they do, the opposition will take the opportunity and punish them for it. That's what makes hockey renowned, it is continuous action from whistle to whistle.

Unlike Soccer, Hockey doesn't follow the offside rule which automatically makes for a quicker game. Hockey is therefore more deliberate in its passing. Players use this lack of offside to manipulate the ball and the defenders into dangerous areas which help to setup an attack onto the opposition.

Addition of new rules like the self-pass, improves the speed of the game and creates a better flow of the game by minimizing time taken by teams to setup. The advantage rule is also a great way to ensure play continues without stopping the game unnecessarily.

4) Hones players' physicality

Hockey is not only a fast paced game, but it requires its players to be quick, agile and decide on the spot. Players have to make quick sprints throughout the game and are given little, if any time to recover. Hockey can be physically demanding and players need to be in good shape to keep up with the game. The synthetic turf where the game is played can be very harsh especially after a fall or skid by any player.

5) All are welcome

Field hockey is a rare sport that does not discriminate when it comes to its participants. It doesn't matter whether it's a male or female participant, they are allow both in mixed teams. It doesn't matter whether a player is 14 or 50, if he or she is eligible to play, they can. In this way, field hockey is empowering all people who have an interest to take part. This makes field hockey such a great way for the community to gather and be part of something bigger than themselves.

6) Card system

In hockey, a player is are less likely to get a red card or a ban unless he commits a serious offence like hitting the opposition. This ensures a player more playing time and teaches him to be more cautious. An umpire can give a card to any player who has commits a repeated offense. There are three types of cards:

a) Green card: Warning for the player to stop whatever she is doing.

b) Yellow card: Temporarily suspends the player for a minimum of five minutes of playing time.

c) Red card: Permanently suspends the player from the match.

If a player is suspended temporarily or permanently, his team plays with fewer players. The green and yellow card systems helps to calm players down by forcing them to leave the pitch.

7) Camaraderie

There is something about working together with others to achieve a common goal. When players work together during training exercises, and practice sessions, they develops a special bond with their teammates. They begin to rely on each other and trust that their team will have their back if they slip up and make a mistake. Players start to enjoy the wins as a team, just as they support each other through. Players begin to feel like they are part of something much bigger than just a game, they sometimes forge friendships that last a lifetime.

8) Passion

One of the most important reasons, that hockey has risen in the last couple of years is because of the amount of passion involved in the game not only by the players but by everyone the clubs, the mangers coaches and fans. When people come to watch a match, they know that they are going to be entertained. When players are passionate about their teams and the game, it can be clearly seen on the pitch by the performance they put in. When a team put in a lot of belief and hard work in their game, it makes for a very passionate game, especially if the opposition team fights back with equal vigor. Nowadays in a world where everything is corrupted by money and fame, the love for the game is what drives true fans to keep supporting their teams in spite of the odds against them.

The number of people that sign up for field hockey has been rapidly increasing over the years. Although field hockey has taken time to carve out space for itself in a football dominated region, it is here to stay and someday soon, it will get the recognition it deserves.

For more about hockey in Kuwait email [email protected]