PH underwater hockey team goes to world championship
Despite being quite competitive in Asia, the Philippine national underwater hockey team remains largely unknown.
But through grassroots programs and more international exposure, the team looks forward to a better future and, hopefully, more financial support from the government.
Jane Bracher reports. – Rappler.com
You’ve probably heard of hockey – played indoors, on ice, or on the street.
But did you know that it is also played underwater?
What’s more, we have a Philippine national team for it, and they are headed to the World Championship.
Underwater hockey is played at the bottom of a pool around 6 to 8 feet deep.
It’s a 6-on-6 game, where players use a short stick to try and put a puck through a 3-meter long goal.
Basic gear includes a mask, snorkel, fins, ear guards, padded gloves, and teeth guard.
The game is played in two halves, typically 10 to 20 minutes in length, depending on tournament rules.
CHARI MAY ONGYANCO, WOMEN'S TEAM CAPTAIN: The real real real difference of course is while playing we cannot talk to each other. The only way to communicate is actually by feel in a way. Medyo kailangan may ESP ka. That’s the hard part of the game. Unlike ice hockey or field hockey they can communicate or talk. Another big difference between our sport and other hockey is while playing you’re holding your breath.
Underwater hockey is thought to be introduced in the Philippines in the 1980s.
Filipinos first competed internationally in the 1990s.
The team is very competitive in Asia and they’ve seen action in the World Championship twice before 2016.
The sport isn’t new. But it remains largely unheard of.
CHARI MAY ONGYANCO, WOMEN'S TEAM CAPTAIN: It’s hard to actually promote the sport because it’s a non-spectator sport. In international games usually they have these cameras underwater for livestreaming and the audience just watches it on screens above the water.
Despite limited government funding, no dedicated coach, and players maintaining their day jobs, the Philippine team is headed to South Africa from March 23 to April 2 for a 3rd World Championship appearance.
The world’s top teams include New Zealand, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom.
Growing the sport in the Philippines is a priority.
The government supports grassroots programs where the team teaches underwater hockey in places like Palawan, with Cebu as a potential next stop.
The hope is for the sport to eventually reach schools.
JAY BEJAR, MEN'S TEAM CAPTAIN: Well, it’s one of the things we really want to push through – making underwater hockey available especially to those colleges na kasama sa UAAP.
CHARI MAY ONGYANCO, WOMEN'S TEAM CAPTAIN: As a Filipino since we’re surrounded by waters, so actually it should be our advantage kasi marami magagaling lumangoy sa atin. Actually kahit hindi magaling lumangoy, basta hindi takot sa tubig can actually excel in underwater hockey.
Little is known of underwater hockey in the Philippines for now.
But with commitment and patience, a bright future won’t be far behind.