The women’s game developed a little after the men’s – probably deemed unladylike behaviour at the time – which may explain why the several stabs at organising it failed. The IFWHA was established in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1974 when the FIH introduced competitive tournaments that the IFWHA conceded and agreed to play competitive hockey. After a great deal of hot air, the IFWHA was absorbed by the FIH in 1982, which consequently allowed women’s hockey into the Olympic competition.
It’s goodbye to grass-playing surfaces and hello to synthetic pitches. These surfaces were introduced during the latter part of the seventies and are now mandatory for all international tournaments. The immediate effect was a faster flowing game. The new surface enabled more players to master the Indian dribble. Although it sounds like something you do after a madras curry, it’s actually an historic technique developed by the Indian and Pakistani teams that subsequently changed the way hockey was played.
It was first seen at the 1956 Olympics and helped secure India the gold medal and Pakistan the silver. This intricate technique requires some hockey stick and ball wizardry which makes it very difficult to defend against. Astonishingly, India didn’t concede a single goal throughout the tournament. It wasn’t too long before the Germans cottoned on to the idea, and they subsequently incorporated it into their game. Effectively, mastering the Indian dribble, along with a little modification to the length of the hockey stick, ended the Asian dominance of field hockey.
Outdoor and Indoor Hockey
Traditionally, hockey is played out in the open air but when it’s a bit brass monkeys and frost bite isn’t an attractive proposition or it’s the off season, indoor hockey comes into its own. It’s virtually the same game miniaturised with the addition of side boards, which primarily keep the ball in play, but can also be played against as part of the game. Recognised as a variant of field hockey, it’s now governed by the FIH and EHF, and has been established as a separate entity under the field hockey umbrella, and the first world championship was held in 2003.
Most initiatives aren’t worth spouting off about, but the EHF should be wildly applauded – don’t go too mad – for its development programs. Ultimately, their aim is to share the knowhow of developing the sport, and promote a simple inclusive narrative for its growth. The creation of an educational launch pad is the prime objective, in particular for disadvantaged national associations that need a helping hand.
The 2017 EHF summer camp held in Albena, Bulgaria is a perfect example of the EHF’s initiative schemes in action. Referred to as “Twinning”, the program principally brings together the biggest hockey clubs and the minnows. Consequently, this campaign brought together the Dutch Hockey club HC Athena from Amsterdam, and the Bulgarian Hockey Federation. A Bulgarian contingent of 3 coaches and 12 youngsters were invited to HC Athena’s training grounds for an exchange of ideas and coaching philosophies. Needless to say, the event – called “Friday focus Twinning” – was an inspiring 4-day experience for everybody concerned, and an endorsement of the EHF’s commitment to unity within the hockey family.