Zimbabwe men’s hockey team has been placed in Pool B alongside Egypt, Ghana and Morocco for the 2012 London Olympic Games African Hockey qualifiers which start on Friday at the revamped Khumalo Hockey Stadium in Bulawayo.
The hosts will open their campaign with a tough assignment against Egypt on Saturday evening, a day after the official opening before playing Morocco the next day.
Pool A features regional powerhouses South Africa and East African nations Kenya and Uganda
Bill Birkett, the Zimbabwe hockey team coach, described the draw because as “tough” because the national team has been not taken part in international competitions since the 2003 All-Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria.
“It’s a tough draw and we were expecting something like that as you don’t get any easy matches at this level.
“Egypt are a powerhouse on the continent while Ghana have been improving, but Morocco are a bit of an unknown quantity which is also dangerous.
“We haven’t taken part in tournaments like this since 2003, but it can also be in our favour as we will go into the tournament as underdogs,” said Birkett.
Birkett however said he had faith in his squad and said it had the potential to cause some upsets. “We have a mature team with an average age of between 24-25 years and they know what is expected at this level.
“Obviously some of them haven’t had the exposure, but I know they will be hungry as this is their opportunity to get some recognition,” Birkett said.
Zimbabwe is fielding both men and ladies’ teams and in the latter there is only one group which features Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.
The Zimbabwe ladies’ team will play Kenya on Friday evening after the opening ceremony before clashing with Ghana on Sunday and concluding with a tie against Uganda on Monday.