In some countries, slowly but surely, the tight grip of COVID-19 on sporting activities is gradually relaxing and the return to hockey is being carefully trialled and monitored. In the latest of our ‘Play Hockey Stay Healthy’ feature stories, Kazakhstan Field Hockey Association Secretary General Serik Kalimbaev tells us about how hockey is resuming in his country.
Hi Serik, thank you for talking to us. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has had a huge impact on all aspects of life, with the inability to play sports such as hockey being just one of many things affected by this crisis. We understand that Kazakhstan is one of the countries in which hockey is slowly returning. Could you tell us what stage you are at regarding the return to action, and how things are coming together
Serik Kalimbaev: “Yes, you are right, the global health pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, including field hockey. But we do not give up and are not going to give up so easily, since active life and playing sport is an indispensable tool against the struggle of any disease. In this regard, positive moves have been made in Kazakhstan in relation to field hockey. We are now preparing for the championship in the region, which will be held in June in Taraz city. Therefore, I can say with confidence that we are making every effort to return all types of active training, but we always remember all the preventive measures to protect the health of our children and carefully follow all the rules of hygiene.”
After a long period of lockdown, there must be a real sense of excitement about the return to action. What has been the reaction from your respective hockey communities?
Serik Kalimbaev: “Of course, there was anxiety and fear for the health of our children, as they are our future. In the beginning there was a stiffness in movements, difficulties in accepting this fact. But thanks to our President and the Ministry of Health, as well as the timely quarantine measures in our country, this situation has not affected the spirit and positive of citizens too deeply. Therefore, according to the measures and prohibitions adopted, the hockey community in Kazakhstan adequately responded to the whole situation, understanding that the most important thing was to wait and be patient at this stage as the health and safety of our pupils comes first.”
Are there any special measures in place regarding social distancing? What is currently allowed in terms of training and interaction between the players and coaches?
Serik Kalimbaev: “Yes, we comply with all distance measures. Representatives of the SES [Sanitary Epidemiological Service] allowed up to ten people to engage in one place. Although hockey is a team game, when training the children have been positions seven or eight steps away from each other, thereby observing safety precautions. Also, in training, we do not allow close contact with each other, we work out methods for giving passes, we support general physical preparation. We also practice online training with guiding instructions from a trainer.”
Everyone recognises the devastating impact that the coronavirus has had on the world. However, sport often proves to be a powerful and positive force during difficult times. How important is the return of our sport to the hockey family in Kazakhstan?
Serik Kalimbaev: “As they say, whoever is devoted to sport cannot be intimidated by coronavirus. This force majeure situation has unsettled people, moreover, an information attack from various channels disorientates people and makes them afraid for the future. With the correct presentation of information and the observance of security measures, people should understand that life has not ended, and everything continues. I hope that the fear of getting infected will leave us and we will be able, like in the old days, not to be afraid of each other. This is proved by the fact that our children are active, optimistic, looking to the positive future and practicing online.”