The smiles did not leave the South African players' faces, as they defeated formidable England 2-1 on the opening day of the Junior Hockey World Cup here on Friday night. Till about a few weeks ago, they weren't even sure of their participation in the mega event!Lack of finance has always been a hurdle in South African hockey . The national team, who qualified for the 2014 World Cup last month, still manage to find sponsors, but the younger lot were left on their own two months ago.
The U-21 players, led by Dylan Swanpoel and coached by Darryn Gallagher, though were a determined lot and decided to raise funds on their own.Banks, corporates, sponsors, hockey lovers... .
The practice game that they played against India XI three days prior to the start of the tournament was their first in two months. Gallagher says, “We have realised that it would be tough for us. We will take our chances but having paid from their own pockets makes them a res olute lot. So, it's a whole experience for them and not just about hockey .“All of the 18 boys are students at various schools and universities, and coach Gallagher himself a teacher in Durban at a university and has taken leave for the Delhi event.“Thankfully the university exams were over and the players were available. I was the only one who had to apply for leave!“ the coach said with a smile, adding that a top-8 finish here would satisfy them.
The first win on Friday night though has fired up the boys, who dedicated it to the late Nelson Mandela.
TODAY'S RESULTS Pool A: Belgium 5 Egypt 0, Germany 6 Pakistan 1 Pool C: Holland 3 Korea 2, India 3 Canada 2 Day's matches: LIVE on TEN Sports Australia vs Spain 2 pm; Argentina vs France 4 pm; South Africa vs Malaysia 6 pm; New Zealand vs England 8 pm