T&T senior men’s hockey coach, Darren Cowie is targeting finishing at the top of the table when the inaugural Hockey5s Pan American Cups (PAC) Tournament flicks off at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus Turf in Kingston, Jamaica from June 4 to 11.
The ten-team men’s competition which will serve as the continental qualifier for the FIH Hockey5s (five-a-side) 16-team World Cup carded for January 2024 in Muscat, Oman will see T&T face reigning Central American champions Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Paraguay in their four-team Pool B series while USA, Puerto Rico, Panama, and host Jamaica comprise Pool A.
The local ‘Calypso Stickmen’ open their tournament versus Costa Rica on June 4 from 4.40 pm followed by pool matches against Guatemala on June 5 also from 4.40 pm, and Paraguay on June 6 at 6 pm to end group play.
The national team will be led by the experienced Akim Toussaint and includes fellow long-serving national indoor and outdoor players, goalkeeper Andrey Rocke, Shaquille Daniel Mickell Pierre, Jordan Reynos, Jordan Vieira, and Nicholas Triston Grant, as well as England-based Teague Marcano, who is coming off a successful season with Southgate Hockey Club, helping the club to promotion to the Outdoor Premier Division as well as one of two promotion spots in the six-club England Hockey League Adult Super 6s Indoor Championships Men’s National Division Two.
At the end of the round-robin series in both men’s and women’s competitions, the teams will contest cross-over quarterfinals with the winners of each pool meeting the fourth-placed team in the other while the second and third-placed teams clash as well to determine the semifinalists.
From the semifinals, the two winners will qualify for the final as well as earn tickets to Oman, along with the winners of the third-placed playoffs.
The men’s teams to qualify so far for the World Cup are Belgium, Holland, and Poland (Europe), and Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria (Africa) along with host Oman, while Oceania and Asia are yet to stage their qualifiers from which three nations each will qualify.
Commenting on his teams’ chances at the tournament, Cowie was quick to point out that while many may think that due to the heavy diet of indoor hockey that the local players have played, it will be easy for us to dominate.
However, the T&T coach sounded a cautious alarm and warned against taking the opponents for granted.
He said, “While our players have been no strangers to the indoor hockey format, the hockey5s poses a kind of new challenge in that the ball is always in play due to the use of the backboards, while one less player is on the field as compared to indoor (six), along with the field being a bit bigger as well.
He added, “This means there is a lot more ground for players to cover, which will challenge their fitness levels, and the players can also score from anywhere on the field as well, and not within a stipulated area as compared in the other formats.”
“So, its all well and good for us to look at the less-known teams like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Paraguay and think that they will be pushovers, but we have to keep in mind that those nations were introduced to hockey5s almost six years ago to help grow the sport in general in their country.”
“So looking at the group, facing Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Paraguay could also prove to be a tricky hurdle for us, just as being a comfortable group, and we must first focus on these teams, and not just USA in we are to complete our target of not just finishing amongst the top three to qualify, but being the overall champions of the tournament.”
In terms of the selection of the team, Cowie said, “Myself and assistant coach Dwain Quan Chan in naming the team looked at a lot of technical aspects and opted to select a squad with a lot of fluidity and which can be interchangeable as well with the ability to play at both ends of the field.”