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Hockey lures sponsors?

By Mark Etheridge

South African Hockey Association president Dave Carr says the men’s team’s successful qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games has already inspired the corporate world into expressing interest at sponsoring the team.

Coach Gregg Clark’s men finally sealed their spot at the Games with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Japan in Kakamigahara, Japan on Sunday.

This after they won the continental championships but were required to play a further qualifying tournament to ensure that they were competitive on the world’s biggest stage.

Said Carr as the team returned home to an enthusiastic welcome at OR Tambo in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning: “Funding is always a major issue for hockey and I must give credit to our CEO Marissa Langeni for working tirelessly to try and raise funds.

“We need funding for preparation camps etc, and I’m not sure how many people are aware that Japan were in a camp for seven months before this tournament. Our guys got together a week before the event, from all around the world.”

Carr also thanked the country’s Olympic governing body SASCOC for their support. “I must say thank-you to the SASCOC board for paying for our flights to and from Japan, that saves us hugely in terms of expenses.”

Returning to the funding issues and Carr said: “Since Sunday I have already received two calls enquiring about sponsoring the team and Marissa also got a call in Hong Kong on the way back from Japan.”

Ezera Tshabangu, SASCOC’s General Manager (High Performance) was also present to welcome the team back and said: “We’ll be sitting down with Marissa to assist the process going forward in terms of more funding.”

A happy coach, Clark spoke of the long road the team had been through: “It’s been long and challenging. This squad has made massive sacrifices over the last two years and there have been many unsung heroes to make sure the team stayed on course and see things through to its end. Marissa has done an incredible amount of work juggling and balancing the books and we have also had lots of support from SASCOC and its board.

“This team is definitely starting to reach its potential. It’s well documented that I’ve said this is the best team we’ve had for ages and I’m quietly confident that we can be very competitive at the Olympics. Now we’ll be trying to get over to Europe towards the middle of June for more preparation, we need more preparations and get a few more games in ahead of the Olympics.”

For his part victorious captain in Japan, Wade Paton also said thanks to everyone behind the team. “From all the guys, thank-you so much for all the support. Without SASCOC we wouldn’t have been able to play. Thanks to Gregg’s phenomenal plan as well and now the guys are all looking extremely forward to going to the Olympics.”


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