Jose Maldonado was crying, taking some time to compose himself. His childhood friend and teammate Ignacio Contardo had just scored Chile’s first goal at the FIH Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar. Although they lost 1-3 to New Zealand in Pool C, it was an important occasion for the Cup debutants for their country. Hockey is still an amateur sport in a country made up of football, with only 500 regular players.
“Most of the boys play in (Chilean) clubs while some play in Europe. Hockey in Chile is a very small sport. With our numbers, it is not easy to compete with other countries. But we are working hard and every The years bring improvement,” says Chile coach Jorge Dabanche.
Unlike other debutants Wales who needed crowdfunding to reach this World Cup, the Chilean government funds the team for its tours and events, but does not pay the players.
“Players work to earn. In some cases, their parents take care of them. They have suitable jobs – engineer, doctor, lawyer. And 70% of the players in this team are students. While some have taken leave, others are working reduced hours during these months because that is the only way if we are to play in the World Cup,” Dibanch said.
Some have taken unpaid leave, others quit their jobs when their employers refused to grant them extended leave. “I was working in a bank. When we qualified for the World Cup, I said goodbye to my boss. I had to prepare and play in the World Cup. I quit my job and started training from June. Went to Spain by December,” said Ignacio Contardo.
“Most people in the team work or study. Many of us have quit our jobs or taken a break from studies to prepare for the World Cup,” the player said.
After scoring in their first cup match, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament at world No. 23 nearly upset No. 11 Malaysia. Chile led 1-0 and led 2-1 at half-time in their second Pool C encounter before Malaysia won 3-2.
“We have prepared well and are playing well. We will try to play better and get more chances. We are getting penalty corners and scoring goals which is a good start. We have 3-4 players who play in Europe. We also traveled to Buenos Aires to play some friendly matches against (neighbors and 2016 Rio Olympic champions) Argentina,” Dibanche said. “We stayed together for 45 days for this tournament, training all the time.”
Chile will play their final Pool C match against title contenders Holland on Thursday. Only a win can qualify them for the next round. It might be asking too much of them, but the Latin American team will see the whole experience as a big win.
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Hockey World Cup (T) Chile Hockey World Cup (T) Hockey World Cup 2023