2021 Junior World Cup, Bhubaneswar - Winner: Argentina

It was another year that was defined by varying degrees of Covid restrictions and their impact on our sport. But it was also a year that had its fair share of highs – in the form of competitions, triumphs and celebrations – balanced with the lows – losses, lockdown and a bewildering sense of what next?

Like every other sport, hockey has been hit hard by the global pandemic with numerous events postponed or cancelled and preparations for teams, who could participate in events, heavily compromised. Possibly the worst hit was the Canadian U21 women’s team, who travelled to South Africa for the Junior Women’s World Cup only for the event to be cancelled and the team to find themselves stuck in South Africa due to travel restrictions.

However, even as the Canadian women were wondering when they would be able to fly home, the Argentina men’s U21 side were celebrating a fabulous victory in Bhubaneswar, India, as they triumphed at the FIH Odisha Hockey Junior World Cup.

This has been the year when Silvina Forrester raised the profile of Hockey ID in Pan American region to new heights, Argentina women continued to amass Olympic medals at Tokyo 2020, Chile men and Canada won continental championships for the first time, and PAHF led the way by being the first continental federation to set in motion plans to increase gender equality within the sport.

Noel Barrionuevo (Argentina) and Scott Tupper (Canada) were among the athletes to bow out of the sport they had graced for years, while Ayanna McClean (Trinidad & Tobago) reached new heights as she won her Golden Whistle (100 international matches) at the Donghae Women’s Asian Champions Trophy 2021.

These are just a few memorable happenings during another year that has been beset by the uncertainty of Covid, so let’s take a chronological look at hockey in 2021.

Both 2020 and 2021 have been years in which online events have come to the fore. In February, PAHF hosted the first FIH/PAHF Gender Equality webinar. The beauty of online communications is the way it breaks down the physical barriers of distance and so, national associations and individuals from as far afield as Canada, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru and Bolivia were able to come together to listen and discuss the ways in which gender equality within coaching could be developed.

Led by PAHF Executive Board Member Mary Cicinelli, four panellists, Craig Parnham (USA), Laura del Colle (Argentina), Camila Caram (Chile) and Anthony Marcano (Trinidad and Tobago), came together to discuss, raise issues and offer solutions in this inaugural initiative.

The first two major PAHF events to take place in 2021 were the PAHF Indoor Championships for men and women. USA and Canada women met in the final, with USA running out 3-0 winners. Both teams will be representing PAHF at the FIH Indoor World Cup taking place in Belgium in February 2022. Two stars of the USA team were Hope Rose, who was the tournament’s top scorer with 13 goals, and Player of the Tournament Ashley Sessa, whose dynamic pitch presence will be a key to USA’s performance at the World Cup next year.

In the men’s event, Argentina secured top spot when they beat USA 4-2 in a closely contested final. Evergreen Pat Harris of the USA won Top Goal Scorer of the Tournament and he will be proudly leading the USA team in Belgium 18 years after his first World Cup back in 2003.

Argentina’s Juan Eleicegui will be hoping to repeat the electric performances that earned him the Player of the Tournament award.

Tokyo 2020 was unlike any other Olympic Games. Strict protocols were in place to ensure the Olympic Games did not turn into a Covid hotspot. Team bubbles, masks, highest levels of hygiene, isolated meals in rooms, teams leaving the minute their tournament ended. This was an event that no-one will forget and yet it was a huge success. Post-match interviews revealed the heightened emotion felt by the teams. One experienced volunteer said he had never felt a charged atmosphere like it. It was as if, with the actual holding of the event so often in doubt, everyone was determined to play the best matches they had ever played in their lives. And for Argentina women, it was almost a dream ending. Las Leonas began badly with a 3-0 loss to New Zealand. They bounced back by defeating Spain 3-0, China 3-2 and Japan 2-1, before losing to Australia. This left them in third place in the pool and contemplating a tricky encounter with Germany.

It was at this point they pushed down on the pedal, defeating Germany 3-0 to set up an encounter with India. A 2-1 victory set up the dream final – a repeat of London 2012 – against the unstoppable Netherlands.

This proved a step too far and three goals in the second quarter for the team in Orange was enough to see the Dutch crowned Olympic champions. But, even with Noel Barrionuevo bowing out, the future for Argentina looks bright with players such as Agustina Gorzelany and Valentina Raposo stepping up and looking like Lionesses capable of reaching the highest levels.

For the men’s teams in Tokyo, it was a less successful story. Canada men came bottom of their pool and so missed out on the quarter-finals. Argentina, who were the reigning Olympic champions, made the quarter-finals but lost 3-1 to a rampant and in-form Germany.

The following officials represented PAHF at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020:
- Maureen Craig-Rousseau - Appeal Jury President
- Alberto “Coco” Budeisky - Appeal Jury
- Royal Richardson - Technical Official
- Rene Zelkin - Technical Official
- Adrian Della Mattia - Technical Official
- Steve Horgan - Umpires manager
- Maggie Giddens - Umpire
- Irene Presenqui - Umpire
- Carolina de la Fuente - Umpire
- Ayanna McClean - Umpire
- German Montes de Oca - Umpire

Continental hockey was back on the agenda with the Junior Pan American Championships taking place in Santiago, Chile.

History was made as Chile men won the tournament for the first time in their history, beating Argentina in a shoot-out after the match finished 1-1. much of Chile’s success can be laid at the door of their sharp shooter Andrés Pizarro, who was the Tournament Top Scorer.

Canada and USA men played out for bronze, with USA winning the ensuing shoot-out.

Subsequent travel restrictions for Oceania teams New Zealand and Australia meant all four of these men’s teams would participate at the Junior World Cup in India later in the year.

In the women’s competition, Hope Rose continued to shine for USA. She was Player of the Tournament, with her teammate Charlotte Vries taking the Top Scorer title. Despite this, USA finished third behind Canada – who won the title for the first time in their history – and Uruguay. All three teams would have participated at the Junior World Cup had it gone ahead in South Africa. For Uruguay, this was to have been a first appearance at the Junior World Cup. For now, the event is postponed, not cancelled, so Uruguay may still get their time in the spotlight.

At the end of September, the Pan American Challenge saw two new names on the trophy as Mexico men and Peru women triumphed in Lima. Mexico men were the dominant force as they swept to victories over Peru and Ecuador. In the women’s competition, Peru delighted the home crowd as they beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 in the final. The results see Mexico and Peru men and Peru and Trinidad and Tobago women qualify for the upcoming 2022 Pan American Cups.

As the game of hockey, in all its formats, continues to widen its reach, it was heartening to see the enthusiastic response to the Central American Hockey5s Development Tournament, which took place in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Just as the athletes were palpably delighted to be back in action at the Olympics, so the teams at the Development Tournament were clearly delighted to be back in action. Costa Rica won the women’s event, beating El Salvador to the gold medal, while Guatemala beat the home team to win the men’s competition.

Another group that has grown in number of participants despite the restrictions of the pandemic is the Las Lionas Hockey ID Foundation, which caters for hockey players of all ages with intellectual disabilities.

Since the pandemic began, the number of players who turn up for Silvina Forrester’s hockey sessions has risen from 40 to 120.

Forrester, who is President of Las Lionas, is a force of nature. As someone with a daughter with an intellectual disability (ID), Forrester was determined that her daughter would have an opportunity to enjoy the sport synonymous with Argentina. Silvina started the Hockey ID movement at Belgrano Hockey Club in 2017 and the group has gone from strength to strength over the past four years.

Forrester and the group’s efforts were recognized in November when the video she produced about the group’s activities was voted a winner at a prestigious international awards event – the Federation Internationale Cinema Television Sportifs International Audio Video competition – that took place in Milan, Italy. The winning video, which took weeks of planning, preparation and production before Forrester was happy with the final cut, demonstrated and celebrated the work of Las Lionas Hockey ID Foundation.

In the recent celebration of International Volunteers Day, two stalwarts of PAHF were honored for the work they do for the sport and the Federation.

Argentina’s Laura Pigretti has worked ceaselessly for the organization across a number of roles. She is a former Olympic Official, Chair of PAHF Appointments Committee and a member of the Education Panel. Laura continues to be involved at every level of the game, attending tournaments to help in the development of officials and using each event as an opportunity to adapt, update and design hockey educational programs.

The second nomination is a familiar face to hockey teams and event staff at both continental and international events. Yan Huckendubler from Canada has been a photographer at international hockey events, and other sports, for many years - with his pictures of athletes, umpires, coaches, fans and volunteers providing a permanent record of some magical moments. Huckendubler was also head of communications for PAHF for many years.

The final event of the year was another magical moment in PAHF history. On the 5 December, as a cyclone circled the Indian city of Bhubaneswar, the U21 Argentina men’s team played a tactically astute game to sweep aside the German team and win the Junior World Cup. This is the second time Argentina has lifted the trophy – they first won it in 2005– and they did it with a fabulous performance that demonstrated both attacking flair and determined and courageous defence.

The stars of the final were the hat-trick hero Lautero Domene, whose three penalty corners put Argentina in an indomitable position; and goalkeeper Nehuen Fernando, who made some exceptional saves to protect his team’s lead.

Throughout the tournament, captain Facundo Zarate had been the driving force for Argentina, starting the momentum with three well-taken goals in the opening match against Egypt and continuing to exhort his team to higher and higher levels.

Despite finishing in the 9-16th place play-offs, the other PAHF representatives, Canada, Chile and USA will all take much experience and learning from this tournament. For USA in particular, a number of high scoring defeats will have been a salutary lesson in what is needed to withstand the rigors of international elite hockey, but Pat Harris’s team won their final match, beating Egypt in a shoot-out, and will be pleased with the resilience they showed throughout.

Canada also finished their tournament with a win, against Chile, to take 13th place. For their part, Chile will be pleased with the way they performed to finish three places higher than the last time they qualified for the Junior World Cup in 2009.

With Canada and USA taking late tickets to the Junior World Cup after the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand, both sides had less time to prepare for the event. As a mark of their maturity, both teams took positive points from some tough results. After a 7-3 loss to South Africa, Canada’s captain Manveer Jhamat said: “I’m really proud of the boys. We were resilient and able to bounce back, so I am proud of our efforts at the end. We are a much better team now than when we came here. There has been a lot of learning and growing as a team. Definitely we’re playing some of the best teams in the world, so it’s bound to be making us better.”

As a turbulent and unpredictable 2021 draws to a close, it is also time to remember some of the hockey community who have departed this year.

Grace Robertson of the USA was a former President of USA Field Hockey, Hall of Fame Honorary Member, PAHF Board Member and Member of the International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations (IFWHA) Council.

Colin Prince of Jamaica was a national junior representative, and a foundation member of the Circus Circle Hockey Team. He was also an FIH Grade One international umpire, remembered for his style and confidence. Prince officiated in some of the largest field hockey festivals and tournaments in the Pan American region.  These included a number of Pan American Games, Central American and Caribbean Games, Regional Games and Banks International Festivals in Barbados, until his retirement in 1998. 

Chris Waters moved from the UK to USA in 1964, and won a bronze medal with USA at the first Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in 1967. He went on to become an active volunteer in the USA Field Hockey Association and the Pan American Hockey Association (PAHF). Among his roles for PAHF, Waters was Treasurer, Chair of the Competitions Committee and Editor of the PAHF Hockey News. Waters also served on the Competitions Committee of the FIH and in 2004, was awarded the FIH Diploma of Merit for his efforts in developing and managing hockey competitions in the Americas. In 2009, at the Junior World Cup in Boston, Chris was awarded the PAHF Order of Merit by then President of the PAHF, Tony von Ondarza.

Donald (Danny) James represented Jamaica at hockey and football, and for a short time, cricket. He chose hockey as his number one sport and played for Jamaica at three Pan American Games and three Central American and Caribbean Games. Later, James worked as a national coach, a Technical Director and coach developer/trainer.

With the Pan American Cups, the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup and the Women’s Hockey World Cup just three of a multitude of hockey events looming large in the calendar, next year promises to be a year of tremendous hockey action.

At PAHF, we wish the entire hockey community a peaceful, healthy and happy 2022.