A British hockey team battles through a tournament against the odds to face Germany in a major final. Teenagers around the country stay up all night to watch. At the final whistle a nation celebrates; the victorious players return as heroes, becoming household names. Hockey is no longer just a game for schoolgirls; it’s officially hip.
Ok, so that was 1988, and it was the Olympics. I was one of those teenagers, so maybe my memory bank is bigging things up just a little. But I can still visualise Dodds and Garcia, brave keeper Ian Taylor and goal-scoring superstar Sean Kerly. And, of course, hear Barry Davies’ immortal commentary after Team GB’s second goal: “Where were the Germans? And frankly, who cares?”
We Brits are a sports-mad lot, and, particularly during the Olympics, will take that love of games to the extreme – no more so than when success beckons. Watching sailing on the red button in 2008 was frankly ridiculous. Synchronised diving in 2004 – nonsense. And remember all that fuss about curling in 2002?
All the more peculiar then, that England’s recent victory in the EuroHockey tournament in Holland barely featured on the public radar. Having won their group, and battled through a nervy semi-final against the hosts, the final was a repeat of that 1988 thriller, and this time the Germans – generally thought of as the best team in the world – were dispatched 5-3.
With luck – or rather with hard work, skill, and suitable funding – the team will push on to 2012, and Jackson, Mantell, Middleton and Tindle will be names known throughout the land. For now, with the all-powerful football continuing to keep smaller sports out of the papers, it would seem that nobody cares about hockey. Which, with apologies to Barry Davies, frankly leaves me with one question: where were the journalists?