At the end of this week there will be three World Cups taking place simultaneously. One event Australia has never won and in reality is not likely to win, the other two Australia has won both twice, and is in with a very real possibility of winning at least one and making the semi finals of both.
Of course we are talking about the FIFA World Cup about to commence in Brazil, and the already underway Rabobank Hockey World cup for men, and running concurrently, the Women’s World cup.
The contrast between the two events from an Australian perspective is quite remarkable. For a start let us look at the money a very mediocre bunch of Australian footballers will earn for their trip to Brazil where many are tipping them to fail to win a game let alone score a goal. Players are believed to be earning around $20,000 per game. Their Hockey counterparts will not be earning anywhere close to these figures, they will be lucky to be earning more than $2000 per game. In fact many of the defending World Champion Kookaburras side will tell you that if it was not for the Hero Hockey India League where they can earn a five figure sum in six weeks, by playing every two days and traversing the continent in a gruelling schedule, they would not be able to dedicate their time to the sport.
It is strange that Hockey does not appeal to the average Australian more, as Australian sports fans love a team that wins; the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos are two of the nations most successful sporting teams. Australians love sports where plenty of goals or points are scored, take AFL and for women Netball. In Hockey you will see around 4-5 goals per game on average. Australians love a physical battle and a dangerous edge to their sport, hockey gives that with the ball flying at speeds of around 145kmh. Take Australian defender Nick Budgeon, as a junior with Tamar Churinga in Tasmania he broke his jaw playing hockey. It is a tough sport, high on skill and bravery, where a swinging stick can be an extremely dangerous weapon.
The Socceroos took the expanding of the World Cup from 24 teams to 32 teams to qualify for their second World Cup finals , 32 years after their first appearance in 1974. The Kookaburras their hockey equivalent, have been ranked in the top four teams in the World for the past 30 years! The Hockeyroos are Australia’s most successful sporting women’s team.
In terms of World Rankings in men’s hockey Australia are ranked number one, and in women’s number four in the world. In Rugby Union Australia are ranked third in the World, while in football they are ranked 59th.
Some may argue that Football is the World game, and far more nations play the game, also that the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, and they would be right. Cricket and Rugby Union are on a similar footing to Hockey, sports originally played by the colonial nations and with similar numbers of nations participating at the highest level today; in fact Hockey has more than cricket!
So the question should be asked why is it that the sports fan in Australia can enjoy every game of the FIFA World Cup, The Rugby Union World Cup and the Cricket World Cup, but not the Hockey World Cup?
One has to feel for Australia’s dedicated and talented hockey players, and also the fans of the sport that they are not given the same television coverage. As to why this is not the case it would be interesting to know why.