U21 Hockey World Cup Qualifiers: Can History Repeat Itself?

On Saturday (12 December 2015), the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe will be running trials at the Arundel School turf to select U21 men’s and women’s teams to compete in the Junior Africa Cup tournament next year.  The Junior Africa Cup will be held at the Windhoek Hockey Stadium in Namibia from the 18th to the 28th March 2016. This tournament serves as the African qualifier for the Junior Hockey World Cup 2016.  All interested serious hockey players who are under 21 by 31 December 2016 can try out for the select team and should report to the turf on Saturday by 9am.

The Men’s Junior World Cup will be held in Delhi, India, from 1st to 11th of November 2016. The Women’s Junior World Cup will be held in Santiago, Chile, from 23 of November to the 4th of December 2016.

In 2005, Zimbabwe made its first step toward regaining the Golden Girls glory from its gold medal women’s field hockey performance at the 1980 Olympic Games.  This time it was high school Zimbabwean girls making the history.  The 2004 Junior Hockey Africa Cup saw Zimbabwe gain a berth for the 2005 Junior Hockey World Cup.  After a fierce selection process, intensive training and lots of fundraising, Zimbabwe triumphed and sent a fantastic girls’ team to Santiago, Chile in 2005.  The girls were first in Brazil training and playing international friendlies before moving on to compete on the world stage in Chile.  They even got to experience their first snow and try their hand at skiing after the tournament in the Andes Mountains of Chile.

As a result of experiencing this high level of play, a record number of fourteen Zimbabwean girls on the traveling team got full hockey scholarships to study and play hockey, most of them in the United States in 2005-7.  Among the 14 were Rudo Mawema of Dominican Convent and Jacquie Kataneksza of Arundel who both went to Bucknell University, Sarah Blythe-Wood of Peterhouse Girls to Monmouth University, Geraldine Raynor of Peterhouse Girls to Michigan State, Kundayi Mawema of Convent to Bryant University, Faith Musengezi of Roosevelt to Franklin and Marshall, Mutsa Mutembwa of Arundel to Indiana University, Christine Mwatarura of Chisipite and Robyn Williams of Girls College to Trinity College, Sarah-Jane Littleford to the University of Pennsylvania and Amy-Lee Levy to Hofstra.

Ten year laters, Zimbabwe’s developing junior hockey players again have a chance at World Cup qualification.  We hope the country’s strongest high school and university players will consider coming out next weekend to try out for the team to travel to Namibia to raise our flag in March next year.