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African Games: South Africa pull out of hockey over poor pitches

South Africa’s men's and women’s hockey teams have both pulled out of the ongoing 2023 African Games, citing the poor nature of the playing facilities.

African Games: South Africa pull out of hockey over poor pitches

The country was scheduled to play at the Theodosia Okoh Hockey Pitch, which has been undergoing redecoration in recent weeks.

However, a statement from the South Africa Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) said the facility was not fit to host such a competition.

Sascoc said it had been advised by independent specialists that the playing surface could potentially injure their players.

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Team SA, therefore, decided to withdraw from the hockey event to avoid any risks, having already qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“Over and above making this decision, our SA Hockey Federation consulted with Sports Flooring Warehouse, a South African-based specialist in carpet laying, and an FIH recognised service provider,” Team SA team leader Patience Shikwambana said.

“They have also advised us – having analysed the images we shared with them – that the field is not satisfactory and may cause harm to the athletes.”

She added: “The rescheduling of the hockey competition, on three numerous occasions has, in addition, caused an inconvenience to us logistically, as a team, where we had to arrange for both the teams to fly to Ghana in time for the commencement of the competition.

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“In the first Chef De Missions’ site visit meeting at the end of October 2023, we were advised that there would be test events to ensure readiness of venues before the start of each competition. This, unfortunately, has not been the case for Hockey. In addition, according to the FIH field certification guideline, ‘If a field that is not certified is being considered as a tournament venue, it should be tested at the earliest convenience to demonstrate compliance with this specification’.

“These tests should be conducted months in advance before a competition – which, in this case, have not taken place. Furthermore, ‘The FIH has a number of accredited test institutes, and these have accredited engineers located around the world’, which we are not certain if they have been involved and provided the necessary certification.”

South Africa’s withdrawal from the hockey competition comes as a huge blow to hosts Ghana, with the LOC having spent over $200 million on putting the Games together and getting the various sporting facilities ready.

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