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#WePuckHere : #14 Philippines

Published on 17th February 2023

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In some parts of the world, a few die-hard hockey players share their passion, even going so far as to create clubs. From Africa to America via Europe and Asia, focus on these little-known countries in underwater hockey. Fourteen episodes with the Philippines.

All started in 1980, the year of the first World Championship, in Vancouver, Canada. Students from the University of the Philippines, members of a scuba diving club, wished to try a different sport. They discovered the existence of the “Octopush”, a practice created by British divers to continue to swim in winter. The Filipinos wanted to find out more, and eventually received information on underwater hockey by fax. To play hockey, they began “creating their own sticks and pucks, and then we tried it in the pool” smiles Dennis Valdes, president of the Philippine Underwater Hockey Confederation. In the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, hockey grew in popularity so much that some of the former divers became interested only in hockey. Two distinct groups were formed with divers on one side and hockey players on the other. There are still people who play both sports.

The club’s beginnings

Thirty years ago, the Philippines Underwater Hockey Club (PUHC) was officially formed. Some of the players are so motivated that they start to enquire about hockey in the world. Some groups go abroad, particularly “to California where there is a good tournament” recalls Dennis Valdes. Hockey is growing and becoming more popular thanks to “this base of players who want to progress” says the president. The Filipino clubs are also becoming more important, reflecting the many new members in the country.. Hockey is now more popular and can count on the help of the “government that regulates sports”, because “all sports have to form a national association, independent of all the clubs” explains Dennis Valdes. Today, there are three clubs active in the Philippines, two in the capital, Manila, and one in Palawan City, called Puerto Princesa. Currently, there are about 100 players in total. There are “about 15 to 18 players in Palawan and about 70 in the biggest club, the Polo Puck Pirates, the second biggest club must have around 15 to 20 players” says Dennis Valdes proudly.

The Philippine National Team

The presence of these clubs in the country allows the Philippines to have international ambitions.  In the early 2000s, some Filipino players participated in the country’s first ever world championship, but they were “not prepared enough for the competition” says the president of the Philippines Underwater Hockey Confederation (PUHC). He adds “hockey had not progressed too far beyond the club”. In 2013, the Philippines sent two teams to the World Championships in Eger, Hungary. The Women’s Elite finished second to last, in 15th place, while the Men’s Masters finished seventh out of nine teams. At the 2016 World Championships in Stellenbosch, South Africa, the same teams from Hungary represented the Philippines. This time the Women’s Elite are ranked thirteenth and the Men’s Masters are ninth. The Filipinos are each in last place in their categories.

The development strategies for the future of Philippine hockey

Today, hockey in the Philippines is different because foreign players from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom came to the Philippines for training camps. These players have experience and knowledge of the sport “helped the Filipinos understand modern hockey, and it’s not just the 3-3 formation” says Dennis Valdes, still grateful. This advice is important because now they know “there is a lot of dribbling, how to swim well, how to play in 2-3-1 or other formations”. In this way, the Philippines have been able to learn to play differently, which “has obviously helped to raise the level of hockey in the country,” says Valdes. To develop the sport, they also set up a fairness system for the national team. They elect five members to take part in the board and “honestly evaluate all the players” to choose the twelve Filipinos selected for the men’s and women’s teams. Dennis Valdes supports and “strongly encourages the NSA to implement programmes to develop the sport in schools and other cities”. For him, the goal is to establish “plans and programmes that could be offered to schools so that more people can play it in schools.” The objective is to give young people a first experience in the sport and to attract them, to keep hockey alive. 

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  1. Pingback: #WePuckHere : #14 Philippines – UWH News – Le média du Hockey Subaquatique

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