We are 85% ready – Fernandes

By Michelangelo Jacobus

Following the conclusion of another successful GTT National Hockey Championships recently at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB) is now preparing to host the International Pan American Indoor Hockey Championships from October 14 to 22.
This is the first time in the country’s history that the tournament will be held in Guyana with the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall the chosen venue. In an exclusive interview with Guyana Times Sports, GHB President Philip Fernandes revealed that with just about two weeks left before the start of the championships, the GHB is about 85% ready to host the tournament.

GHB President Philip Fernandes

While preparations are being finalized, Fernandes noted; “I think at this stage we are 85% there. We have a lot of work to cover this week but expect it to be a great tournament full of excitement and entertaining hockey. We hope that the Guyanese public will come out and support the teams.”
The GTT Championships coming off of a seven year hiatus was a test before the Pan American championships and the GHB top man expressed delight with the way things went.
“I think the GTT National Championships was a successful event. The matches were run off on schedule and there were no disruptions on any of the nights. This is the first time in many years that we are having a tournament again and the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall and the facility stood up to the test. The floor played true as we anticipated and the lighting was good. There still needs to be a bit of work in some areas but these are being addressed urgently.”
Despite being satisfied with the interior lighting, Fernandes said that the GHB is deliberating over the brightening of lights in the parking lot as well as the outside of the facility; “This will also add to the feeling of safety although there will be a strong security presence for the duration of the tournament.”
The GHB will also be implementing easily accessible garbage disposal facilities and the GHB President confidently stated; “I think the tournament will be fine as it will be managed by an international team of officials so we mostly need to take care of the facility.”
***National Teams’ Preparation***
The national teams have been training intensely on a daily basis for well over a month and the improvement was markedly evident during the GTT Championships with the Ladies team and the two national male sides hardly being challenged.
One of the requirements for Guyana being given the green light to host the Pan American Championships was a quality playing surface, thus the GHB some weeks ago imported a removable tile surface which was passed under the International Hockey Federation (FIH) regulations.
During the tournament it was easy to determine those who had been training on the floor and those who were not.
Fernandes pointed out that “the floor is particularly fast and our teams have been becoming more accustomed and their performance has been improving as a result. Tactically I think both the male and female teams seemed to be more in cohesion but they now just need to be able to concentrate and stick to one plan for the entire duration of play. They are playing well in patches but need to be a bit more consistent.”
While the surface is flat and good for the game, it is faster than any other playing surface that the teams have ever played on before. This Fernandes noted took the players some getting used to as the ball is much more difficult to control.
The new surface also brought about changes in players’ game as well as they had to slightly adjust their technique to remove the “bad techniques” they adapted to suit previous playing surfaces.
This will be the first time in the national teams’ history that they have been training on the same surface that they will be competing on and this is an influencing factor that will be paramount to boosting Guyana’s chances of success at the tournament.
“I think this is the biggest difference between this tournament and others that we have used before. It is the first time that we have ever been able to train on the very same surface on which the competition is going to be played. This is valuable for our teams and we hope that it will increase our likelihood of success.”
This year the competition will be one of the biggest ever in its history, which dates back to 2002. There will be eight nations contesting the Women’s competition and seven contesting the Men’s with each tournament being represented by participation from North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Only the 2010 competition, held in Venezuela, was larger and by just one team.