Discussions continue on South African affair

Following is the full text of a press release issued on 14th February regarding the decision by the National Olympic Committee of South Africa to exclude the South African men's hockey team from the Olympic team it named the week before. Since the time of the release, discussions have been ongoing within South Africa among the relevant bodies to reach a favourable solution.

FIH President responds to NOCSA

Brussels, Belguim - International Hockey Federation President, Juan Angel Calzado, has issued the following statement in light of the decision by the National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) to exclude the South African men's hockey team from the South African Olympic team, despite the fact that the South African men's hockey team had automatically qualified for Sydney 2000 as All Africa Games champions, under the FIH qualification system.

Mr. Calzado states:

The decision by NOCSA is extremely disconcerting, and I sympathize with all those in South African men's hockey, who are most certainly disappointed. I have been in close and direct contact with South African Hockey Association President, Clare Digby, as well as other appropriate authorities on the matter. Obviously, the hockey family would like to see the decision reversed, and if there is a way to achieve this, we will do our utmost to find it.

I am most disappointed that NOCSA, being aware of the FIH qualification system, allowed the South African men's team to participate in the qualifying tournament - the All Africa Games - as a prerequisite to qualification and now after having qualified, and five months later, NOCSA is prohibiting them from participating in the Olympic Games.

The South African NOC has explained in detail publicly its reasoning behind its decision to send the women's hockey team, also African Games Champions, to the Olympic Games, but not to send the men's team. Its reasoning is based on their principles of quality and universality. NOCSA has stated it does not feel the South African men's team is capable of finishing in the first nine places in Sydney, and therefore does not meet its quality criteria. Neither does NOCSA feel the team meets their standard of universality, which NOCSA defines as "representivity (sic) from the formerly disenfranchised community."

The FIH certainly appreciates the special circumstances surrounding Olympic selection in South Africa. However, NOCSA's policy is in conflict with the qualification system of the sport's world governing body, a system which has been approved by the International Olympic Committee.

The FIH qualification system is based on the IOC's principle of universality, which aims to achieve reasonable global participation for the purposes of development. The FIH system, in line with this philosophy, gives automatic entrance to Continental Games champions. As a result of the decision by NOCSA, there will be no African representation in the men's Olympic Hockey tournament, which ultimately, is a major blow to the development of the sport in South Africa and the African Continent. In this instance, we feel the principle of Olympic (geographic) universality should be the overriding consideration.

Moreover, with respect to the standard of quality, it is worth noting that the South African men's hockey team made a first ever appearance (as Continental Champions) at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, finishing a creditable 10th out of 12 teams.

The International Hockey Federation will continue discussions with the South African Hockey Association and NOCSA in an attempt to achieve a favourable solution to the situation.