“Impossible is not in the spirit of the Togolese Hockey Federation”, declares the West African national hockey association’s mission statement, and assessing the progress made since the federation’s foundations nine years ago, this is no idle boast. A prestigious award from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in recognition of its work was just rewards.
The Togolese Hockey Federation (THF) was founded in 2008, following huge amounts of perseverance and determination by Luc Kouassi Dofontien and Komla M Gamisso. The two hockey advocates are part of a six-person committee that is driving hockey forwards in this West African country.
Of course, the federation faces problems. There is currently no national hockey stadium with a quality turf, hockey is played on grass, tarmac, sand and scrubland. There is little in the way of equipment; the players rely on donations from other country’s and benevolent hockey equipment manufacturers. A lack of finance means that training of coaches and officials, and hence a raising in the standards of play, is limited, which is a frustration to the THF as they are desperate to see their players on the international stage.
But, the determination is boundless and as far as it is able, hockey in Togo is flourishing.
Hockey in the West African nation centres around grass roots projects, there are pilot centres in schools across the country and a network of clubs and activity centres. And it is not just the skills and techniques of hockey that are learnt through the hockey coaching courses, the THF is also determined to use the sport as a vehicle for driving social cultures and values.
Now, eight years after its formation, the THF has more than 900 players and five thriving hockey clubs located across the country. There are also 14 centres where hockey sessions are run for everyone, from children to adults; club players to beginners. Eight of these centres are found in the capital city Lomé, while the remaining six are in the interior of the country, catering for the dispersed rural communities.
As recognition for the growth and quality of its programmes, Dofontien and his team received an award as ‘Best Development Programme in Africa’ from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in October.
One of the key factors in creating a strong hockey culture is the quality of the coaching and officiating and, to this end, the Togolese Hockey Federation, along with support from the FIH West Africa Targeted Assistance Programme (TAP) and the African Hockey Federation, has invested in coach and umpire education.
The result is 35 qualified coaches, of which 28 are currently trained to FIH Level One standards and a further three are undergoing FIH Level Two training. There are another three recruits whose training is about to begin. The growth in the number of qualified coaches has been gradual, dating back to 2010 when a number of physical education teachers were taken through their Level One course by a visiting coach educator from Ghana.
Since then, the quality and number of coaches in Togo has been strengthened by involvement with the West Africa TAP project.
Olympic Solidarity, a development programme run by the International Olympic Committee which organises assistance for National Olympic Committees, has also played its part by funding two international coaches from Belgium and France to train players and coaches in two separate visits to the country.
In addition, Togo has 24 qualified umpires, which helps raise the standards of play from school to international level. One of the outcomes of a good infrastructure comprising qualified umpires is the ability for Togo to play competitive matches against other West African countries.
In recent years, Togo Hockey Federation has held tournaments between the various hockey centres; a national championship; a state championship; has selected Under-17 national squads for women and men and will be playing its first full international in Accra, Ghana, next year.
Mention should also be made of the ongoing support of the Belgium Hockey Federation, numerous Belgium hockey clubs and Brussels Airlines, who have donated and transported heaps of hockey equipment to Togo.
There are also plans in place for the first artificial turf in the country. Once that is laid, then Togo can take a huge step towards international competition.
The work of the Togolese Hockey Federation is a magnificent example of partnership working at its best. This is very much in line with the aims of the Hockey Revolution, to generate millions more followers across the globe.
To find out more information about hockey in Togo, visit their .