Hockey 5, from the continent to the world

February 5, 2024

Hockey 5, from the continent to the world

Not all countries have the same opportunities. Realities often vary widely even within the same continent. America is no exception, and Hockey 5 was created with the purpose of bridging that gap as well. That's what happened at the World Cup of this format held in Oman, where Uruguay, the United States, and Paraguay participated in the women's category, and Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and the United States in the men's. These teams faced off against the top-ranked teams from Europe. Some had never even set foot on a world-class court before.

The Cimarronas, who had lifted the trophy in the exhibition tournament in Switzerland in 2022, this time secured a historic 5th place with Teresa Viana being recognized as the top scorer with 19 goals. The Uruguayan team, led by Gonzalo Ferrer, achieved the best Pan-American position in the World Cup.

However, it's not always the one who goes the farthest that wins the most. The North American teams also made it to the Top 10 with a ninth-place finish. But the revelation came from Paraguay despite finishing 14th. A year ago, Pablo Mendoza took over the leadership of both the women's and men's teams. The 42-year-old coach brought all his experience to this developing country. The first test in this discipline was in July 2023 with the Pan American Cup, which awarded spots for the 1st edition of the Hockey 5 World Cup. They took a small bronze step there, which led to their historic qualification, for the first time, to a World Cup. They were going to compete against the biggest names in hockey. They were going to face teams like the Netherlands, which they had never been close to before.

"This was Paraguay's second intercontinental tournament; the previous one was in 1984. Therefore, due to the possibility of competing internationally and because of the development and growth objective, this format is an essential tool," explained Mendoza. He mentioned part of the key to continue climbing: "Both in the Pan American Cup and in the World Cup, we have had the youngest team on average. This means that there is still ample room and potential. Our teaching methods are based on the concepts of the FIH Academy, where we do not give vertical orders, but rather develop in the players the tools to solve complex situations," the coach concluded.

While this discipline serves and collaborates, by reducing various necessary resources compared to Hockey 11, to promote the sport in Paraguay, it does not mean they stop thinking about the other format. This season will include the Panam Challenge on the agenda, and in 2025, the Junior Pan American Games will be held in Asunción. For that, training must continue to allow for further progress.

Regarding the development of hockey to take bigger steps, Pablo Mendoza explained: "The idea is to hold a wide range of events that allow us to increase the bases of players and coaches so that clubs can grow. Clubs are the ones who train the players, and the national teams should enhance them for international competition; without clubs, there are no successful national teams. These players who participated in the World Cup did so largely thanks to the coaches, leaders, and club teammates."

The bar is being raised for teams like Paraguay, or the men's national teams of Trinidad and Tobago (8th in the World Cup), the United States (13th), and Jamaica (16th). Their presence in more tournaments requires greater demand, and therefore the level rises. This is how they leave the continent to play with the best in the world and contribute to the local history.

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