It is a vision that has become a reality as three hockey pitches, in three countries are playing host to three hockey communities taking part in one hockey competition.
The Hockey Dreams League sees a combined total of 550 athletes and coaches taking part in a hockey and education initiative in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia.
Over the next few months, 10 league days will be held simultaneously in the three African nations, with the league coming to a close to coincide with the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
While hockey is the focal point, the competition will also provide opportunities for development activities and tackling social issues within the three communities.
The competitions take place in the cities of Blantyre, Kampala and Lusaka and are organised by the local Hockey Dreams Coaches. Among the skills and knowledge the coaches have developed since joining the Hockey Dreams Foundation is the ability to organise a big event and work as part of a team for the delivery of the event.
And that’s what Hockey Dreams Foundation is about. In the past nine years, the foundation has been supporting coaches to create a better future, enabling them to finish their education, develop their skills and abilities through the sport, seek opportunities and life chances, and be a role model. Currently, there are 45 Hockey Dreams Coaches reaching more than 1,250 kids on a weekly basis when running their hockey projects. The coaches also run camps and in 2020 600 children attended one of four such camps.
For the Hockey Dreams League, each community will have 10 league days, where they will get to play competitive, organised hockey and receive drinks, meals and some educational development activity.
Gift Lombe is a Hockey Dreams Coach working in Zambia. He said: “The hockey world should know about our event, because it is the foundation of future hockey. We are dealing with kids who will soon be adults and start playing at a high level. They may help us grow this league by sponsoring us and also spreading it to other countries across Africa. The League is also the perfect opportunity for us as coaches to identify how far our coaching skills and leadership are. Especially after such a crazy year.”
As well as organising and officiating the competition, the coaches identify the social issues that will be targeted in the developmental work. They bring in support from local organisations and among the topics covered are: teamwork and respect; hygiene and disease prevention; gender equality; education and youth skills; and Olympic values.
Ugandan Hockey Dreams Coach Doreen Asiimwe, said: “The League is about so much more than just a sports league. Through sports and hockey, we as coaches can address different issues like hygiene and gender equality. We use our function as a hockey coach to be more like a role model for them and teach them about social topics as well. The League is a good way to reach many kids.”
To ensure the league is sustainable, the Hockey Dreams Foundation encourages businesses, companies and hockey clubs to get involved through sponsorship and support. Several Olympians, such as Maria Verschoor and Terrance Pieters, have also leant their support to the Foundation.
Dutch international Pieters said: “I am a proud Ambassador of the Hockey Dreams Foundation. I think the initiative is phenomenal: using the sport of hockey in order to provide the people in disadvantaged countries a better prospect. This is something I truly support, and I cannot wait to fully commit myself.”
Summing up why the initiative, and others like it, is so important, Malawi hockey coach Geoffrey Gama, said: “This event will help the kids to solve many of the problems they face in their everyday life like diseases and conflict, they will understand the impact of team work and Olympic value in the sport. For these kids, that is extremely important in their personal development.”
The Hockey Dreams League started on 3 April and finishes on 31 July.