Not amongst the favourites to lift the trophy, South Africa players have paid from their own pockets to just be a part of the men’s hockey World Cup beginning here on Wednesday.
World number 15 South Africa coach Mark Hopkins said the biggest hurdle for the growth of the game in South Africa is “funding”.
“The more hockey South Africa plays the better it is. But our challenge is to get the funding in place to allow us to compete in as many Test matches we possibly can,” Hopkins told PTI on the eve of his side’s opener against hosts India.
“We are coming into the World Cup with players needing to pay from their own pocket. They paid to be part of the camps. Our challenge is to get the funding in place. We are lucky to have a few sponsors but the sponsorships we have don’t really cover the budget of the World Cup.
“We currently have a shortfall at the moment and if we don’t get to cover that shortfall, then there is a possibility the players might also have to pay for the World Cup trip,” he added.
With world ranked fifth India at the other end in their first match, South Africa have a tough task at hand but Hopkins is looking at the positives.
“Every game at the World Cup is a big match. You try to start the tournament as well as you can. It’s exciting that we are playing our first match against the host nation. We will go into the game fairly confident. We feel we have the squad, skill set and tactics to play really good hockey and get results from the match,” he said.
“I think the pressure is on both sides. Being the host nation there is more pressure on India than us. We will just go out there and play the brand of hockey that is successful for us.”
Hopkins said his side’s goal coming into the tournament is to be become the most successful South African hockey playing nation in the history of the World Cup.
“We are a proud sporting nation and as a group we are looking to create history. The goal for us is to finish the tournament as the most successful South African hockey team in the men’s World Cup,” he said.
“We probably are a team that opposition has seen less videos off. People know less about our players because we don’t play much in the European leagues or Test matches than other nations. That is an advantage for us,” Hopkins added.