Army keeping field hockey alive in soccer-crazy Poland, says coach
With only around 2,000 players playing field hockey in Poland, it is the Polish armed forces which is instrumental in keeping the sport alive in the...
Bhubaneswar (PTI): With only around 2,000 players playing field hockey in Poland, it is the Polish armed forces which is instrumental in keeping the sport alive in the European nation. Just like India, the Polish army too has been supporting many sports in their country and one of them is field hockey.
WKS Gunwald Poznan is the most popular hockey club in Poland which last month won their fifth consecutive league title and credit for their success goes to the Polish army which has been supporting the club.
In fact, nine players of the 18-member Poland squad presently playing in the FIH Series Finals here are army men from Gunwald Poznan club.
"Hockey is not so popular sport like here in India. It's one of the small sports in Poland. Soccer and volleyball are the most followed sport. We have just 2,000 players who play hockey," Poland coach Karol Sniezek told PTI on the sidelines of the FIH Series Finals.
"The army has a big role to play in keeping field hockey alive in Poland. They are supporting one club, WKS Gunwald Poznan in the Polish league. The army supports the best players in Poland, not only hockey but other sports as well.
"We have nine players in this team from the army. They work for the army and get more time to play hockey," said Sniezek, who is also the coach of Gunwald Poznan club.
He said even though hockey is a small sport in Poland, the army has been working relentlessly for its growth. "Few players play outside of Poland but 80 per cent play in the Polish league. Hockey is a small sport in Poland but the army is doing everything to grow the sport," Sniezek said.
Sniezek said Poland players need more exposure trips to big hockey playing nations to make a mark in the sport.
"We are ranked 21st in the world but we have talent. If you can remember in 2000 Sydney Olympics we scored a last minute goal to send India out of the tournament with a 1-1 draw. So, it's not that we can't play but we need more support," he said. "We mostly have small camps and then sometimes we go abroad to play against Netherlands clubs and other small clubs in Europe. But we need more tours for the players to grow," Sniezek signed off.
Poland will take on Asian Games champions Japan in the cross-overs Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals of the ongoing FIH Series Finals, a tournament from which two places are up for grabs for the FIH Olympic Qualifiers to be held later this year.