The Boys from the land of ‘Samba’ have landed in Doha. However, they are not here to showcase their renowned skills in Pele’s beautiful game but to display some Brazilian stick-work in field hockey.
The South Americans will take on Qatar in a five-match series over the next 10 days, starting today at the Al Rayyan Stadium.
Hockey is still striving to make inroads in a country where soccer runs through the veins of every Brazilian. However, the 2016 Olympic in Rio de Janerio has forced the Brazilian Olympic Committee to shift their attention towards other sports as well.
They now have a new hockey head coach in the renowned Dr Bert Bunnik and Brazil are on a four-year mission to prepare to face the best in the business when the world’s biggest sporting event takes place in their own backyard in 2016.
“We decided to come to Doha because two years ago, I was here with the Dutch team to play Pakistan. Qatar Hockey Federation’s General Secretary Mohamed Nazer Abdul told me then ‘whenever you want to train, you and your team are welcome’.
“So here we are on our way to Japan and the facilities here are fantastic. And all this is keeping in mind the 2016 Olympics,” said Bunnik, who was the high-performance Director of The Netherlands’ national hockey team and has a vast experience in long-term development of players.
Before coming here, the Brazilian side had a training stint in Portugal and also spent two weeks in Netherlands.
“The training session in Portugal and The Netherlands were good and now 10 days here will be ideal before heading to Japan for the Olympic qualifiers. We will also be going to Fiji and most likely to New Zealand and then in the winter to South Africa and Namibia.
“We are scheduling all that. We have the South American Games in December and next year in February and we have the World Hockey Series round two,” said Bunnik, who felt it was a challenge to take up the coaching assignment with Brazil.
“I was working for a long time with the Olympic committee and the Federation International Hockey as a master coach. After doing all the work at the high end, it is also good to do some work with a country that was bracing up for the Olympics,” he said.
Bunnik feels the team has really shaped up well in the last few months and there is plenty of potential in Brazil.
“The Brazilian team is improving a lot now. They are a very young side and we have taken young players who can play in 2016 as the Olympics are in our own backyard, Rio. So we have not selected any old players and the average age of the players is 21-years-old.
“Every player is selected keeping the four-year period in mind and I’m sure they will come good by then. They have learnt a lot already in these three months.”
Unlike their Qatari counterparts, who played their first international series against Oman recently, the Brazilian side has some experience coming into this series. They have participated in the Pan American Games and at the moment with in the top 40 in the world rankings.
“There are only 14 clubs in Brazil and there are around 3,500 players. But most of the players are social players and play school, family tournaments and only 500 play the national competition.
“The game is mainly concentrated now in Rio, Sao Paoulo, Curitiba, Porto Alegre — only in the southern parts of Brazil. We want to take the sport to the northern part of Brazil as well. With over a population of 200 million, there is plenty of potential,” felt Bunnik.
For Qatar, on the other hand, this series is another platform to hone their skills and gain experience. Though they were on the receiving end in their first official series against Oman recently, they showed signs of resilience. Qatar lost the first match 4-2 but not before taking a 2-1 lead at one stage. In the second match, the hosts squandered a 2-0 advantage before losing 4-2.
Qatar’s Malaysian coach Shaiful Azli is hoping for an improved performance from his wards.
“After the Oman match, we have found out and worked on our weakness. I think our players will not repeat the mistakes they did in the matches against Brazil.
“This Brazilian side looks well-organised. They have a strong support staff and their style of play will also be different. Hopefully, my boys can put up a strong performance,” said Azli.
Head Coach: Bert Bunnik, Coach: Claudio Roche, Daniel Tatara, Afonso Francisco, Luciano Caminha Jr. Bruno Sousa, Matheus Borges, Thiago Pacheco, Andre Couto, Yuri van der Heijden, Bruno Paes, Ricardo de Dousa, Willian Alba, Thiago Dantas, Miguel Ferreira, Patrick van Der Heijden, Augusto Felipe, Gabriel de Grandis, Luis Reus, Morilo Souza
Source: Gulf Times