Hockey of Sport
Hockey is an 11-a-side stick-and-ball game played by men and women, and boys and girls. It is sometimes called field hockey to distinguish it from ice hockey. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposition.
ORIGINS OF HOCKEY
There is evidence that the game of hockey originated in ancient Greece, Egypt or Persia many thousands of years ago. The Romans also played a game called paganica, in which a feather-filled ball was hit by a club and in South America a game was devised by the Araucano natives called cheuca, or “the twisted one”, which referred to the stick used.
The first hockey club in England was the Blackheath Football and Hockey Club, founded some time before 1861. The rules developed over the next few years and in 1875 the English Hockey Association was formed, followed by the All-England Women’s Hockey Association in 1895.
THE HOCKEY PITCH
Traditionally, hockey has been played on a grassy pitch about 92 metres long by 55 metres wide. It is split into two halves and looks like a football pitch, with goals at each end, a halfway or centre line, corner flags and penalty spots. Today, many pitches are made from artificial materials rather than grass. The advantages are the ground does not become muddy or waterlogged and the ball travels faster. All of which makes for a faster, more skilful game.
The goalposts are 2.13 metres high and 3.66 metres apart, with a crossbar between them. A net is attached at the back. A semicircular striking area is marked on the pitch in front of the goal and the penalty spot is marked within it. Other pitch markings include the centre line and two 25-yard lines (at 22.87 metres).
COMPETITION AND PLAYERS
Generally, a hockey team is composed of five forwards (or attackers), three midfielders (or half-backs) and two defenders (or full-backs). Behind this formation is the goalkeeper. Modern tactics mean that the formations can differ quite significantly from this traditional approach.
During the 20th century hockey was played mostly by girls at school. Men and women play hockey at the highest levels of the game. It is both a Commonwealth Games sport and an Olympic Games sport. Until relatively recently the best teams were from Pakistan and India. The women’s game was dominated by the Netherlands. Nowadays, teams from Australia, Germany and Argentina win most tournaments.
In 1971 the first hockey world cup for men was held; it was followed in 1974 by the first women’s world cup tournament.
RULES OF HOCKEY
A match lasts 70 minutes, divided into two equal periods of play of 35 minutes. Goals can only be scored from within the striking circle but any player can score. However, goalscoring tends to be left to the forwards. Goals can only be scored with the front of the hockey stick. Likewise, players must control, dribble and pass the ball using the front of their sticks.
Players can take the ball away from opposing team members by tackling them with their hockey sticks or by intercepting passes. Players learn to dribble with the ball. As well as hitting the ball, you can also push, scoop and flick shots. Once, you were not allowed to raise the stick above shoulder height but the rules of the game change from time to time and this is now permitted as long as it is not dangerous.
Traditionally, a bully-off was used to start each game of hockey. The two opposing centre-forwards met at the halfway line with the ball placed on it. Each player then tapped his or her stick on the ground and then against the opponent’s stick three times before attempting to be the first to strike the ball. Today, the game has been simplified and the forward merely starts the game with a hit to a player on the same team.
There are various penalties for foul play, including using the back of the stick, obstructing an opponent by turning your back on him or her and kicking the ball (unless you are the goalkeeper).
When the ball goes over the goal line and was last hit by an attacking player, then the defending side can take a hit from the edge of the striking circle. If the defending side hits the ball out then the attacking side either takes a penalty corner (if the original shot was intentional) or an ordinary corner (if unintentional or by accident). Penalty corners are also known as short corners and the ordinary corners as long corners.
A penalty corner is taken from the goal line at least 9.2 metres from the goal; a corner hit must be taken within 4.6 metres of the corner flag. Penalty shots are given for an intentional foul in the striking area.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
Players wear shirts, and shorts or skirts. They also wear footwear suitable for the playing surface. Team colours distinguish one side from the other.
Goalkeepers need extra protection and wear a helmet, protective leg-pads, gloves and reinforced boots for kicking the ball away.
Hockey sticks are made of wood and can be any length suitable for the player. The end of the stick is curved or crooked and has flat face at the front and a curved surface behind.
The ball is usually white and has a surface covering of leather, but on synthetic pitches the ball can be of any colour that shows up clearly against its background and made of any material.