Taken from an initial 40-member shortlist, a team of junior hockey players are currently in the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago to test their strengths for the first time on artificial turf.
When the announcement of the two-tournament tour came back in October of 2018, Coach Robert Fernandes had expressed optimism for the team’s prospects, basing it on the fact that the selected players had performed exceptionally in their recently-concluded National Indoor Junior Championships.
“These players produced such a high level of quality, entertaining hockey that it drew crowds that were on par or even larger than some of our senior tournaments. I’ve never worked with a squad that has this much talent and depth,” Fernandes had stated.
Fast forward to 2019, a 13-member team (inclusive of Coach Fernandes) is at their peak and have travelled to Trinidad and Tobago. Not looking to put their focus on just winning, Coach Fernandes is focused on getting the team au fait with the turf and conditions. This is in hopes of giving the team enough international exposure in order for them to be ready for the Pan Am stage. The Pan Am stage is critical since it is the doorway to the Indoor World Cup.
The first tournament that the team are participating in is the Ventures International Indoor hockey championship, which has begun and will conclude on January 6. The team will then see a break between their two tournaments, but will not be resting. In fact, the players will be utilising their time to get further acquainted with an indoor turf.
The second tournament that the Guyanese team are enlisted in is the University of the West Indies (UWI) Indoor championship, which will run from January 10-13.
The team includes: Nickel Ashby, Jamarj Assanah (C), Paul D’Andrade(GK), Shakeem Fausette, Shomere Garnett, Tevisarid Garnett, Omar Hopkinson, Kareem McKenzie, Nandalall Persaud, Meshach Sargeant, Warren Williams and Samuel Woodrofe.
Kareem McKenzie, Meshach Sargeant and Omar Hopkinson were all a part of Guyana’s last junior team that competed at the quadrennial Pan Am Junior tournament in 2016, while senior player Jamarj Assanah, who is ahead of the batch in experience, will participate in anticipation of his involvement in 2020.
The Guyana Hockey Board has a packed international schedule as it will be looking to jet off the senior male and female team to Canada in March this year. The females are expected to come up against Belarus and Canada while the men will be involved in a tri-nation tournament against Canada and Russia.