Cash appeal launched to send teams down under – for underwater hockey world cup in Tasmania

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By Tamara Schofield

A MASSIVE fundraising drive is underway to send 48 British athletes to compete in the underwater hockey world cup.

Britain has two female and two male teams, each with 12 players and a coach, who train at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in south Leeds. They are hoping to attend the competition in Hobart, Tasmania from July 9 to July 23.

Underwater hockey is played in a pool with competitors in a diving mask, snorkels, large fins and a thick glove. Theyunderwater-hockey-1 use short sticks to flick a weighted puck into their opponent’s goals.

U19 men’s team manager and chief fundraiser, Ian Tait, of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, said: “The cost of taking four squads, coaches and medical staff is approximately £170,000, the athletes have to self-fund £3,000 each, so it really is a massive task.

“The sport is a real eye opener and nothing like I have ever seen before, imagine playing football where you can’t kick the ball more than three metres, you can’t communicate with other players on the pitch and your breathing is limited by the fact you are in two or three metres of water.

“The British press paint teenagers in such a negative light, but the fact I get to work with a squad of 98 participants who are motivated, work very hard and still have time to have fun at the same time is magnificent.”

underwater-hockey-3Emma Pitchforth, 18, of Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, who plays for the U-19 team said: “I train five times a week normally, this increases coming up to big competitions. It’s hard to balance between underwater hockey, work, university and having a social life but participating is worth it because of the amazing friends I have made and all the competitions I’ve been to.

“I’m so excited to go to the world cup as so many other countries go and it is also located in an amazing new country which I have never been to before.”

The British Navy invented underwater hockey in the 1950s to keep their divers fit and improve their ability to work underwater, with it evolving into a sport played in more than 20 countries.

Andrew Stillwell, the national squads’ manager, of Hilsea, Portsmouth, said: “In 2006 Sheffield hosted the World Championships, when underwater-hockey-4Great Britain at the time had around 800 registered players. Ten years later we have nearly 2,000 players across the British Isles.

“Hopefully once the sport becomes more popular, and each year it is doing that, then maybe one day we will be able to take it to the Olympics.”

For more information visit the team’s Facebook Page.

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