Celebrating the team behind the team on International Volunteer Day

Celebrating the team behind the team on International Volunteer Day

December 5, 2021 | Source: FIH

On International Volunteer Day, we celebrate people from across the globe who selflessly give their service in the administration and promotion of hockey. from board members and committee chairs to coaches and umpires; from admin workers, to media personnel – all the people listed below have gone above and beyond to make our sport the very best experience it can be for all participants.

To honour these hard-working and committed individuals, FIH is presenting an FIH International Volunteer Day award, recognising the invaluable contribution of each nominee. All the recipients of the award have been nominated by their continental federation.

In addition, in this year of Olympic Games and the Men’s Junior World Cup we are paying a special tribute to the volunteers who made the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a roaring success, despite all the unprecedented challenges posed by a global pandemic.

Emphasising what an incredible, albeit different, experience it was to be a volunteer at this year’s Olympic Games, are the words of Bongekile Motsa, who is originally from Eswatini but has been living in Tokyo since a couple of years.

“One of my greatest highlights was meeting and making acquaintances with people from diversified backgrounds on a daily basis,” she said. “My team (BIO) was so supportive and was honestly the best team I had seen at the Olympics Broadcasting Unit (biased). I still hang out with the members of my team to this day! Working across the two hockey fields brought so much thrill because I could watch both men and ladies’ games as I carried my duties, which included being in close proximity with the athletes.”

In the video clips, we hear from Michiko Matsuda, who has been volunteering ever since she moved from Japan to Australia to study. She spent 10 years in Australia working and playing hockey and now, after a hugely impressive ‘performance’ as a volunteer at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Michiko is a permanent volunteer with the Japanese Hockey Association. She combines volunteering with a full-time job in finance.

‘I was Team Liaison volunteer but then I became Team Liaison Manager so I was in charge of managing 40 Team Liaison volunteers. My aim was to get everyone to work as a team but I also wanted to help the volunteers achieve their own dreams.’

Michiko also galvinised the team of volunteers throughout the stadium into cheering each team as they took to the pitch using each nation’s favourite chant. And so, when Australia stepped onto the pitch they were greeted with the familiar sound of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi’!

The second video introduces Yoko Aoshima who was a member of the team who greeted international delegates as they visited the Oi Hockey Stadium.

‘[Covid] meant it was a hard time at the start of the Olympic Games with a lot of nervousness in the local population. But within three days people were waving and asking about the Games. That is the power of sport. People were realising what the athletes had been through and there was a change in the atmosphere and people knew this was the right thing.’

‘I was always a big fan of the Olympics and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the Olympics coming to Tokyo and I didn’t want to miss it.’

Four months on and Yoko is part of a WhatsApp group with many other volunteers and they are planning a reunion event. She was also the creative force behind the volunteers ‘pin badge’. While there were few opportunities to swap these in Tokyo, Yoko hopes to take her volunteering skills and her pin badges to Paris 2024.

Bruce Danbury of Great Britain is a well-known character pitch-side at hockey events, where – over the course if three Olympic Games and countless other international and national matches – he works as Field of Play Manager. But, as he explains, the Tokyo Games were unlike anything he had experienced before.

‘I assumed until the last minute I wouldn’t be at Tokyo, but I was lucky enough to be one of three international volunteers working on a sports specific role at the hockey venue.

‘The stadium was just fantastic, easy access, huge changing rooms, two fantastic pitches. The standard of play by both athletes and officials was the best I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine what it is like to be an athlete at that level, but watching them and realising the journey they had been on leading up to the Games but the level of emotion for both winners and losers was so intense.

‘Some of that fortnight was really lonely,’ says Bruce. ‘You ate by yourself, you jumped on a bus, you stayed in a bubble. There were lots of people but we were all isolated. But on the other hand, everyone was so friendly, so helpful and all the other volunteers were also super helpful. The highs were really high, and the lows were just a bit lonely.’

Yoko, Michiko, Bongekile and Bruce are just four shining examples from the thousands of people who give their time to volunteer within our sport. Listed below are volunteers from the five continental federations and the awards and recognition they are receiving is not solely for these people but in honour of volunteers everywhere.

FIH International Volunteer Day award winners

European Hockey Federation

In the image (L to R): Björn Isberg, Barbara Morgan, Doctor Katja Van Oostveldt and Professor Dr. Udo Rolle

The EHF ran an astonishing 25 EuroHockey events during 2021, working through the various Covid restrictions to bring hockey in an entertaining but safe manner to athletes across the continent. This would not have been possible without the thoughtful work of the EHF Covid Panel – Dr Katja Van Oostveldt (BEL), Professor Dr. Udo Rolle (GER), Björn Isberg (SWE), Sylvie Petitjean (FRA) and Barbara Morgan (SCO).

In the image (on the left): Sylvie Petitjean

In a statement from the EHF, special mention goes to Dr Katja Van Oostveldt (BEL) and Professor Dr. Udo Rolle (GER): ‘There is no doubt that without their tireless commitment and expertise we would not have been able to deliver 25 EuroHockey events in 2021.’

African Hockey Federation

In the image (on the right): Josie Milella

There is a single nomination from the AfHF – Josie Milella from South Africa.

Josie Milella was a volunteer at both the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 as well as the Paralympics Games Tokyo 2020. This is not the first time Josie has been recognised for her work, she was also named by the AfHF for the FIH International Volunteer of the Year celebration in 2019.

Continued dedication to hockey, not only in South Africa, but on behalf of Africa as a whole means that Josie is the 2021 nomination from AfHF.

Pan American Hockey Federation

In the image: Laura Pigretti (on the left) and Yan Huckendubler (on the right)

Two stalwarts of Pan American and international hockey are recognised by PAHF. Argentina’s Laura Pigretti has worked ceaselessly for the organisation across a number of roles. She isformer Olympic Official – Chair of PAHF Appointments Committee and a member of the Education Panel. Laura continues to be involved at every level of the game, attending tournaments to help in the development of officials and using each event as an opportunity to adapt, update and design hockey educational programmes.

The second nomination is a familiar face to hockey teams and event staff at both continental and international events. Yan Huckendubler from Canada has been a photographer at international hockey events for many years and his pictures have captured many of the best moments in the sport. Yan was also head of communications for PAHF for many years.

Asian Hockey Federation

There are a number of nominations from the Asian Hockey Federation, many of them focused on people who are working incredibly hard to develop the game and increase participation in their respective nations. The range of nations involved demonstrates how hockey is reaching diverse communities across the region.

In the image: Mohammad Fazlul Islam in green jersey

There are three nominations from Bangladesh. Former international athlete Mohammad Fazlul Islam has been running coaching academies for young players for the past 30 years. It is largely thanks to his work that the Bangladesh women’s national team are now competing in FIH and AHF events.

In the image: Ritu Khanum

Ritu Khanum and Mohsinul Haque Chowdhury are also driving Bangladesh hockey forwards. Rita has been the driving force behind the growing women’s hockey movement in Bangladesh, supporting female athletes in a practical and proactive way. Mohsinul is the founder and chief coach of Hockey Kendra, a hockey centre that has provided a starting point for many of the Bangladesh national teams.

In the image: Ekaterina Yusupova (on the left) and Ahmadulin Rinat (on the right)

Ekaterina Yusupova of Tajikistan is another volunteer working hard to create opportunities for men and women to play hockey, while Ahmadulin Rinat of Uzbekistan works at both the national level as a coach and international umpire, while also  focuses on delivering hockey to the less privileged. As well as being the creative force behind country’s new hockey centre, Ahmadulin is also helping to develop ParaHockey in Uzbekistan.

In the image: Nurul Syazwani Binti Mohd Saleh 

From Brunei, Nurul Syazwani Binti Mohd Saleh is a former national team athlete who is currently working as a sports  teacher in Brunei Darussalam. Alongside her professional work in education, Nurui works for the Brunei Darussalam Hockey Federation in a number of positions, both coaching and in admin roles. Nurui is also working for Para Hockey ID in Brunei.

In the image: Seok Da Bin

There are four nominations from Korea. Hockey player Seok Da Bin worked as a health official and was heavily involved in Covid-related protocols and quarantine activities during events in Korea.

In the image: Kim Hyun Hee

This year Covid restrictions really challenged the hockey community, but it was through the work of people such as Lee Seung Woo, the Secretary General of Donghae City Sports Council, and Kim Hyun Hee, a sanitary volunteer and member of a local hockey club, that events ran smoothly. Woo and Hee worked hard on safety and quarantine activities to ensure all national competitions were able to take place.

In the image: Choi Eun Byeol

Supporting the development of hockey at all ages and levels in Korea is important to ensure the sport is sustainable, which is why the AHF recognises the work of coaches such as Choi Eun Byeol. She is a coach and volunteer and is renowned for her positive, ‘can-do’ attitude.

In the image: Ashim Sharma (on the left)

The final nominee from AHF is Ashim Sharma of Nepal. Ashim has trained young players across a number of regions of Nepal and formed the Girls Hockey Club in Lumbini Province in 2021. He was also the mastermind behind the formation of the Sahana Pradhan Memorial Women’s National Hockey Tournament and he is currently spearheading an initiative to start hockey as an activity in five schools across the country.

Oceania Hockey Federation (OHF)

This year the OHF is recognising the incredible work of volunteers from the Pacific Islands, where any barrier to hockey development is met with a smile and a whole heap of energy.

In the image: Frank Vira

Frank Vira from Vanuatu was a futsal umpire who switched to hockey. Since that moment of enlightenment he has not only officiated at events but shared his knowledge to help develop a group of umpires and technical officials so hockey can be played in safe environment.

In the image: Winki Yea

For the past seven years Winki Yea has been a familiar face around hockey events and training sessions. During that time he has progressed from the person who carried the equipment to training sessions to President of Solomon Islands Hockey.

In the image: Theresa Potuan (on the left) and Kinia Onivalo (on the right)

Theresa Potuan heads the Officiating Committee in Papua New Guinea and has also been using her own experiences as a technical official at continental events to help mentor potential umpires and technical officials in her own country. Not only is she a respected technical official, a knowledgable mentor but she also plays the role of PNG team Mother, ensuing everyone is well fed.

Giving back to the next generation is a wonderful thing and Kinia Onivalo of Tonga is doing just that. After time spent as a national team player, Kinia has developed a governance model and was treasurer for the national association until assuming the Presidency this year.

In the image: Peta Mualia (on the left) and Kinia Onivalo (on the right)

Former Fijian national women’s player Emi Nawaqakuta is now working to create a coaching, development and participation framework for the next generation of hockey players. She joined the Fiji Hockey Board in 2019 and has been quickly accelerated to the role of President this year.

The final nominee from the OHF is Samoa’s Peta Mualia Too. Peta has been captain and coach of the national women’s team since 2003, but she also combined the playing side with admin roles, serving as Vice President and President of the Samoa Executive Board.

From volunteers at the greatest sporting spectacle on earth to the people serving their sport at grass roots level, hockey is a sport that recognises and celebrates the huge commitment and dedication of its army of volunteers.

This FIH International Volunteer Award is just one small way of the hockey community showing its gratitude, appreciation and sheer awe at the selflessness of volunteers everywhere.