Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
THE national Under-21 men’s and women’s hockey players will this week converge at Arundel School in Harare for trials as the technical team select provisional teams for the Junior Africa Cup scheduled for March in Windhoek, Namibia.
The tournament, set to run from March 18 to 28, is serving as a qualifier for the Junior Hockey World Cup scheduled for later this year.
Zimbabwe will be fielding both men’s and women’s teams in Namibia.
The top two countries from each category will progress to the Junior World Cup and Zimbabwe will be hoping to make up for their failure to qualify for the Olympics after they found the going tough during the qualifiers held last year in South Africa.
Hockey Association of Zimbabwe president Humphrey Chigwedere said since they are off-season, players will converge at Arundel where the coaches will assess and select their provisional squads during trials pencilled in for Friday and Saturday.
“On January 8 and 9 we are starting our preparations in earnest. All the teams are going to converge at Arundel where coaches and their technical teams are going to look at the eligible players. It’s off-season so we are relying on trials, players are coming at Arundel.
“Soon after that we will announce the provisional squads and 30 days before we go to Namibia, around February 14, we will name the final teams. After the announcement of the provisional squad there is going to be squad training during the weekends because most of these guys are in school and then the last week before we fly out we will have some sort of a camp,” said Chigwedere.
The HAZ boss said they last fielded a team in the continental event in 2012 and both the men’s and women’s teams failed to qualify for the Junior World Cup.
The women’s team in 2004 qualified for the Junior Hockey World Cup held in Chile in 2005 and the HAZ president said they believe the side has better chances of progressing to the global event while their male counterparts are likely to face stiff competition from countries such as Ghana, Egypt and South Africa.
“The Junior Africa Cup is serving as the Junior World Cup qualifier and in this event our women’s team has played very well in the past. In 2005 they went to Chile for the World Cup. We think if our women come to the party in Namibia we have chances to qualify for the Junior World Cup.
“For the men, there is stiff competition within the continent but we have got reasonable chances. If they do well I think we will be able to upset some of these teams such as Ghana, Egypt and South Africa which are the powerhouses although we have upcoming teams such as Zambia,” said Chigwedere.
For the World Cup, the men’s competition will be held in India while women will be in Chile between November and December.
Men: Tongai Mukwewa (head coach), Prince Mwale (assistant coach), Kalpesh Parshotam (manager).
Women: Trish Davies (head coach), Tendayi Maredza (assistant coach), Jenna Palmer (fitness coach), Gertie Makuvise (manager).