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Haz gears up for Olympic qualifiers

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The Hockey Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) is gearing up for a more exciting 2011 season after the sport took significant strides towards revival this year.

This year’s hosts for the All-Africa Games, Mozambique do not play hockey which has led to Zimbabwe being roped in to host the hockey tournament.

HAZ president Kays Kanyangarara said: “It could have been the second All Africa Games tournament that would have taken place without hockey being played.

“In the last edition in Algeria, hockey was again not a part of the games but this year, since Mozambique do not play hockey, we will be hosting the tournament which will double up as the qualifiers for the Olympics in 2012.”

The continent’s best hockey playing nations will be vying for places at the Olympics. Zimbabwe’s only medal in team sport at the Olympics remains the gold medal won by the golden girls at the 1980 games in Moscow.

The tournament has since been christened the Africa Olympic Hockey qualifiers and will run from September 3-15 concurrently with the All-Africa Games at the soon to be refurbished Khumalo Hockey Stadium in Bulawayo.

In another positive development for the sport, Zimbabwe will host the annual tri-nations hockey tournament before the qualifiers.

Botswana pulled out of this year’s tournament held in Namibia in August where Zimbabwean teams outclassed the hosts in their own backyard.

Kanyangarara said he was hopeful that the refurbishments at the Khumalo Hockey Stadium would be complete before the end of February for local teams to start preparations on astro-turf.

Kanyangarara said 2010 had been a year of revival for the sport as the country successfully hosted the indoor inter-provincial championships in Harare before the outdoor tournament at Christian Brothers College later in the year.

After government released US$1 million for the refurbishment of the stadium, it can only mean better things for the local hockey fraternity as we enter the New Year after the sport had gone into doldrums because of the unavailability of suitable venues which meet international standards.

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