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MX News Update 2024

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Passion for hockey drives SA women

Bengaluru: As the world’s top hockey teams prepare for the Paris Olympics, a low-ranked South African women’s team is in Bengaluru to spar and hone their skills against Indian players.

“It’s great to be able to compete against India and be here,” said Giles Bonnet, coach of the South African women’s team.

India have won three matches and another ended in a draw out of the six friendlies the teams were scheduled to play at the Sports Authority of India’s Netaji Subhas Southern Centre. Bonnet will be hoping for a win before they return to South Africa this weekend.

Training against a higher-ranked India was a great opportunity to hone their skills, according to Bonnet. However, the Indian women’s team failed to qualify for the Olympics.

“India is ranked ninth in the world and is a full-time professional team that trains every day, with full-time staff.”

No one on the South African team plays full-time hockey. Many of the players are full-time employees, students or parents.

Ranked 18th in the world, South Africa has everything to gain and nothing to lose against superior India. What makes these underdogs dangerous is their raw passion. While professional players receive a salary, South African players sometimes pay out of pocket for daily needs. The coaches apparently don’t get paid regularly either.

At the Paris Olympics, South Africa is the lowest ranked team in Pool B, where they are grouped with heavyweights Australia, Argentina, Great Britain, Spain and the United States.

Bonnet has been impressed with the speed and technical prowess of the Indian team, which has kept the South Africans on their toes. He takes note of his team’s play against India’s quick counter-attacks.

“We have made changes because if it happens against India, it can happen against other teams like Australia and Argentina,” Bonnet said.

Published May 9, 2024, 12:53 PM IST