Most Indian players come from humble backgrounds, making it into the national team is always a struggle. But the important thing is that once they reach the national setup, all their needs – be it accommodation, travel, food, daily allowance etc. – are taken care of by the authorities.
But not everyone is so lucky.
The Welsh hockey team, making their World Cup debut 128 years after playing their first international, is an organization where players have to pay a substantial amount of money to play, covering the costs of playing in the tournament. The further the distance from Wales to the venue, the longer the event, the more money players will have to spend.
“Hockey is a small game in Wales. (When we play) we have about 200 people at the National Stadium which is a bit different to our (20,000-capacity) one,” Wales head coach Daniel Newcombe laughed. .
“Our funding from the government is limited and because of our recent success, we’ve obviously qualified for a lot of big tournaments which means more tours. While the government has been really supportive, like Now that we have a shirt sponsor, there’s a difference between the costs and the budget.”
Each Welsh player paid over £1,000 ( ₹99,000) per year to play regularly for the country. Some contribute as much as £2,000 ( ₹1,98,000 approximately). But it also falls short.
To cover the costs, Hockey Wales (HW) introduced a new initiative to raise funds — crowdfunding. The federation launched the initiative late last year, asking fans to donate whatever they could to travel to the World Cup. The initiative is still active and those who wish to contribute can do so via the HW website.
Newcomb added, “We need to get in the public eye, get exposure, get sponsors to move forward. From 36th in the world, we’re now down to 15th. And we’ve just done that. No,” added Newcomb.
Wales have made a dramatic rise into the top 15 in the world. Although he won a bronze medal at the 1908 London Olympics, he played in the third tier of European hockey for the last decade. But important victories lifted them, first, to the second level before reaching the top more recently. Their success also coincided with the rise of the Gareth Bale-led Welsh football team which qualified for the recently concluded 2022 World Cup after a gap of 64 years.
Wales captain Rupert Shipperley said, “It’s been a great year for sport in Wales and it’s going to continue. Hopefully we can go a little bit further towards the football World Cup.” Wales are out of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Group stage, failed to win a single match.
But the rise of Welsh hockey has come at a price. All the players work or have businesses to run from their homes, the only time they have is during the weekends when everyone gathers in Cardiff to practice as a team. On Monday, they return to their regular jobs.
“The players are here for the right reason. They are so committed that they give up everything they have – everyone’s got jobs and they take unpaid holidays. It’s not talked about but it’s 12 It’s been a year since I’ve been coaching,” Newcomb said. “It adds a little fuel to the fire. We are not here to earn money but only to play hockey with our mates.
Although Wales lost 0-5 to neighbours, Great Britain teammates and arch-rivals England here on Friday, it did not deter them. They still have two chances – against Spain on Sunday and hosts India on January 19 – to prove themselves.
“We’re not here to experiment and make up numbers. We’re here to compete, to give us the best chance to win. We’ve got a game plan, we’ve trained, when the whistle blows, It’s a hockey game. The pitch. We’re here to win some hockey games. That’s how we’re going to approach it. There’s no pressure on us to come out swinging,” Newcomb concluded.
(Tags to Translate) Wales Hockey Team (T) Hockey World Cup (T) 2023 Hockey World Cup