Watching Australias practice game against Germany from the stands is a rather boisterous group. That they arent ordinary supporters is obvious from the fact that soon after the game ends,players jump into the stands where they look rather pleased as they get hugged and are generally fussed over.
This group of about 30,consisting of parents and other family members,has traveled with the team for the Junior World Cup. We have a group of eight families who follow their sons when they play for the Australian team. There is one parent who is here though her son hasnt made the squad. So the support is not just for the players but for the team, says Brad Hayword whose elder son Liam plays for the senior Australian squad and the younger Jeremy is in the junior squad.
Hockey is mostly a family sport in Australia. We have a lot of players whose parents have played at some level. My wife played 10 years for Northern Territories and Liams parents Ann and Chris Noblett both have played for South Australia.
Australia isnt the only team to have family members over. The Argentinians expect around 15 family members to join them,the French four or five and the South Africans a couple. But the biggest contingent is from New Zealand with about 40 family members travelling to Delhi.
On Wednesday however,just midfielder George Muirs parents David and Tammy Muir had arrived,after a days travel. The Muirs may have arrived a day before the other parents but all will be staying together. Usually us parents travel together. We had a tour company in Australia approach us with a group rate. The problem is that since the team is named only about six weeks before the start of the tournament it gets more expensive. We then have to book our tickets at the last minute, says David.
In a sport that doesnt receive much funding outside a few countries,expenses are a legitimate concern with even the members of the New Zealand squad expected to pay their way to New Delhi. It costs us roughly $ 4500 to send each player. We have a couple of sponsors but we do a lot of fund-raising on our own as well. When we had to raise money for the Sultan of Johor Cup last year we sold samosas and we also had a calender sale, says Tammy.
Indeed considering the close knit nature of the hockey community,the families work together throughout the year. When the junior team called a camp in Auckland recently,the Muirs hosted four boys at their home and other hockey families did the same.
In order to travel with their children in the junior team,some sacrifices have to be made. All of us work so we dont get paid when we travel. We dont vacation. Instead we travel with our kids for their tournaments. We will catch all their games but we will also take the time out to go and visit the Taj and other sites that are close by, says Tammy.
But the rewards Muir say are worth it. The boys appreciate what we do. We dont get big crowds at home,but when we traveled to the Sultan of Johor Cup last year,the players were stunned to be playing in front of a packed stadium. So among those thousands of people they were glad to have a group of 20 people cheering for them, says David.
And with many of the players in the World Cup on the cusp of breaking into the senior squad and turning professionals themselves,many parents also see it as an opportunity to spend quality time with their children. Right now is the time we can come to support them. In the future when they are older,they will be traveling with their wives and girlfriend, jokes Hayword.