T&T senior women’s hockey team coach, Anthony Marcano

T&T’s senior men and women national indoor hockey team coaches, Raphael “Raffie” Govia and Anthony Marcano, have expressed their doubts about the Pan American Indoor Cup, a qualifier to the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup, taking place in October.

This year’s event was originally scheduled for March, 25-29 in Spooky Nook, Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the United States, however, in a press release dated March 11, the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) shared that the tournament was being postponed.

The PAHF release stated: “The Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) has been monitoring closely the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation that is impacting the global community, and more directly, our region in recent days.

“Following consultation with the USA Field Hockey (USFHA) and local Health Authorities, the PAHF has today decided to postpone the 2020 Indoor Pan American Cups/Indoor World Cup Qualifiers to a date to be announced shortly.”

For the men’s segment of the competition, the national team coached by former national player Govia, who led the team to the last Indoor World Cup in Germany, will be seeking to qualify for a second straight World Cup from the tournament which will feature host 42nd ranked USA, Canada (15th), Argentina (20th) and 12th ranked T&T while the women’s edition of the competition involves USA (12th), Puerto Rico, Argentina (15th), Canada (17th), Uruguay (21st) and the Marcano-coached T&T women, who are ranked 30th. Both tournaments will qualify one team to the World event.

In another update recently issued, PAHF advised its qualifying tournaments for the Indoor World Cup, which is carded from February 3-7, 2021 in Liege, Belgium, will be rescheduled to a date in October.

The release added: “The new date will be announced by the end of June while it also reminded all federations that the rescheduling of this event is still dependent on improvements in the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation that is currently impacting the global community, and more directly, our region.”

However, commenting on the recent release by PAHF, both Govia and Marcano raised concerns about teams being fully prepared, players safety and the decision to still consider having the qualifiers in the USA this year.

Speaking to Guardian Media Sports, Govia said that while he was pleased to see that the PAHF was looking to get international hockey in the region it may come too soon for most of the countries.

He said, “A lot of the guys on our team are essential workers as they are employed as members of the T&T Police Service, T&T Defence Force, T&T Coast Guard, T&T Fire Service as well as the Financial Sector, so all we can ask of them is to continue to do their training and try and stay in physical shape as best as possible.

“Because as it stands we still have to practice social-distancing and don’t have the all-clear for the use of the sporting facilities to have training sessions and are awaiting the go-ahead from the government with regards to the resumption of playing team sports in the country.”

Concerning holding the qualifiers in October, Govia said, “I’m a bit confused as to why they will be looking at that month, because at present the USA is among the leading countries in terms of COVID-19 cases, and it looks very unlikely that they will get the numbers down to a safe figure with regards to the health authorities for us to compete by that date.

“So I’m hoping that at the next PAHF meeting they consider putting off the qualifiers until next year,” added Govia, who qualified the T&T team in 2017 – 2018 edition of the 12-team FIH Indoor World Cup, T&T ended in the tenth spot behind champion Austria, Germany, Iran, Australia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland and Russia.

This after T&T won the 2017 Indoor Pan American Cup qualifiers in Guyana, crushing powerhouse Argentina 7-0 in a lopsided final led by a pair of goals from Mickell Pierre and Akim Toussaint.

The lone Level III FIH hockey coach in the country, Marcano, was also perplexed as to why PAHF would set an October date for the qualifiers, adding: “I’m very sceptical about that date especially with the state of affairs in the USA, concerning the number of COVID-19 virus cases.

“At the end of the day, I think the final decision on us participating at the qualifiers will be made by the T&T Hockey Board as it will have to take into considerations the health and safety of players and technical officials as well as their own risk of being sanctioned or banned from future events.”

Marcano also noted that the venue to be used (Spooky Nook) is at most times a bee-hive of activity as its a very popular sporting complex which includes 12 basketball courts, football fields, and athletics tracks.

With regards to the national women’s team training programme, Marcano said his players have been following a five-day training regime from the Michael Johnson Foundation.

“It’s the most that we can do at this time as we await the ‘new normal”, what does that mean in terms of training teams and social distancing, it’s all left to be seen but in the end, we have to be innovative as coaches going forward,” said Marcano.