London Olympics: Kenya`s lost glory in hockey

Nairobi: Twenty-four years ago, the Kenyan hockey team lined up with the rest of the world to vie for Olympic honours in the 1988 Seoul edition.

And that was the last time the African nation sent a hockey team to the Games. Over all, Kenya have participated in Olympic hockey seven times, reports Xinhua.

In 1956, Kenya were 10th overall, and in the subsequent Olympics were: seventh in 1960, sixth in 1964, eighth in 1968, 13th in 1972, 9th in 1984, and 12th in 1988.

Gone are the days when Kenya used to hold the one-time World Champions Pakistan to barren draws. The teams could put up a spirited struggle against great hockey playing nations such as Holland and India.

In the same vein, the spirited efforts of promoting the sport in Kenya are long gone, given that the culture of a requirement that all students going to secondary school must have a hockey stick is now history.

It is now 25 years since a Kenyan team was crowned the African champions after clinching the gold medal in the fourth All Africa Games hosted in Nairobi in 1987.

With the gold medal, the team earned itself the chance to represent the continent in Olympics, which were held in Seoul, South Korea.

So what happened to Kenyan hockey?

"The decline of hockey in Kenya can be attributed to a disorganised Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) administration, whose numerous wrangles bogged down the game," hockey coach and international umpire Marie Aran said here Thursday.

"The then chairman Hardev Singh monopolised things at KHU so much that nothing could happen without his authority."

It was so heavily monopolised that when Hardev Singh went on leave, the national leagues took a break pending his return. It went further. Singh was the sole signatory of the union`s accounts, controlling all the finances. In fact, the account was in his name.

As the chairman, the KHU constitution gave Hardev Singh the power to preside over the union elections. So, the same man who had a big interest in the election, presided over it.

"Unless Hardev went, there was nothing that would ever have moved at KHU. There were no new ideas that he brought to the sport. He was ready to fight and keep away all people with new ideas," Aran added.

Hardev Singh was finally shown the door in 2005 and his place taken over by former international, who is also the vice-chairman of African Hockey Union, Resham Bains.

"Hockey is improving and I am sure the best is yet to come. A lot has unfolded before our eyes in the past few years, most of which was unimaginable a few years ago," Bains said when asked whether Kenyan hockey had the capacity to replicate the 1980s.

"Unnecessary wrangling took centre stage and in that confusion participation in major tournaments."

Bains said the recent resurfacing of the country`s national hockey stadium with the Astroturf holds the key to Kenya`s future in the sport.