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November 25, 2014
Friday, June 20, 2014

The other two W. Cups

Argentina’s Las Leonas came in third at this year’s women’s hockey World Cup.
By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

Field hockey continues to fear exclusion from the Olympics

THE HAGUE — England presented a protest to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) following the men’s bronze medal match against Argentina on the grounds that Argentina had 12 men on the field for almost two-and-a-half minutes. It may have been by mistake, but they did not advise the control table which according to the rules should have suspended captain Lucas Rey for five minutes. It was during that time, when Argentina should have played with 10 men that Matías Paredes scored both Argentine goals within a minute for the 2-0 victory. Later Rey was suspended for five minutes.

England did not protest the result, but wanted to put the mistake and possible cheating on record. The FIH decided it was unintentional and the result stands while Lucas Rey was suspended for one international match. The FIH also blamed the control table and, of course, it should check that a substitute should not enter the field until another player crosses the sideline to come out. The writer has seen this controlled rigorously at league matches in Buenos Aires and it should be done more so in World Cups.

It can happen. Years ago, when control was not so strict, my team started a league match against GEBA with 12 men by mistake. At some time it was discovered. I, the captain, was not suspended but had to go off. GEBA, sportingly did not protest the 0-0 result.

But FIH also made a serious error mentioned before. During Argentina’s women’s 3-0 win against Germany, Luciana Aymar scored a perfectly legal goal, but Germany asked for a video referral for “an Argentine foot fault outside the 23-metre line” which is not in the laws. The umpire strangely accepted it and the video judge also. I wanted to present them both with a book of rules, but the only ones available were in Dutch and the people involved were not Dutch.

Also, the FIH broke its own rules by not stopping the clock for penalty corners which sometimes wasted up to a minute.

Argentine successes

Coming third in both World Cups are Argentine successes. It was always on the cards that the Argentine women would lose to top-ranked Netherlands (in the semifinal) on home ground, but they could most likely have beaten all others. Yet the team, second oldest on average in the tournament, was not as good as before, especially in attack and will need some changes, perhaps already for the Champions Trophy in Mendoza in December. Aymar, at 36, is obviously not as good as she was, but still important for the team. In the two games she was absent, injured, Argentina played worse, beating England with the last shot and drawing with China. She says she will play in Mendoza and will be irreplaceable.

The real revelation were the only 11th-ranked Argentine men who only lost to the two finalists and have not reached their potential yet. Their circle defence and playing out of defence were among the best. When they lost 5-1 to that Australian hockey machine in the semifinals, coach Carlos Retegui said not to worry, the Aussies score five goals against anybody. Then they scored half a dozen against the Dutch in the final.

The Argentine in the final was referee Soledad Iparraguirre. She is considered among the best in the world.

Olympic fear

Field hockey continues to fear exclusion from the Olympics which, the FIH says, was nearly the case at the last Olympic Congress. FIH president Leandro Negre, who tends to be a bit wishy-washy, said that the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) president, Tomas Bach, with some of his officials, came to The Hague and was impressed by 15,000 people at the stadium— which would have been more in a bigger stadium — and the surrounding atmosphere (including world championships for various categories of seniors, juniors and beach hockey). Hopefully he keeps it mind. It would be stupid to drop the game from the Olympic programme.

An advantage in this respect is the surge of women’s hockey in the United States to the semifinals, an influential country in the IOC.

Talking to former national women’s team coach Sergio Vigil — who, by the way, is in favour of the new four periods of 15 minutes rule to be used already in Mendoza — he said it is not so much a question of the game’s popularity, but rather the number of people in men’s and women’s hockey delegations taking up room in the Olympic village which lead the IOC to change to seven-a-side (as in rugby) or indoor competitions ... which would be a big mistake.

We do not agree! With all the money spent, and wasted by countries holding the Olympic Games, building larger Olympic villages for athletes is the least of the problems and the most advantageous. While a lot of the sports installations remain as white elephants, Olympic villages can be turned into housing estates of which there is a shortage everywhere.

And in future

FIH President Negre mentioned the previously announced possibility of having 16 instead of 12 teams in the next World Cups in 2018, but has now said it may be too much for one venue (except Holland) and would have to be played at several venues. A bad idea.

A better plan is to hold a Club World Cup in India with initially 44 clubs in 11 groups, but nothing more has been heard about this for some time and the whole thing is still a bit hazzy. The only time Negre accepted to approach the “lower class” of the press room was shortly before an important match and I could not waste much time talking to him.

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