Turkmen hockey: “surprise” on the world ice rink

Turkmen hockey: “surprise” on the world ice rink

Dmitriy VINOKUROV

We still remember the times when the phrase “Turkmen hockey” seemed as something unusual. Especially for foreigners who knew a very little about our country, except that it is a hot place with Karakum desert. Indeed, the climate here is one of the sultriest.

We are all get used already with the “Turkmen hockey”, and for those who hear about it for the first time, it becomes a surprise. For rivals, over which our team effectively took up, even unpleasant. It is important that over the years the school of Turkmen hockey has not only appeared as a part of a big hockey family, but has developed a lot and claimed to reach a success story.

The entry of the Federation of Hockey of Turkmenistan (FHT) into the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) with the support of the participants of the annual congress of this organization in May 2018 in Copenhagen was a significant step on this path. Now, enjoying equal rights, our representatives can vote on any issue of world hockey, run for the highest governing bodies of this organization. In addition, the national team will become a full participant in the tournaments held under the aegis of IIHF.

By the way, the national federation was established last year, before that the Center for Winter Sports of the country was engaged in hockey development.

To this stage, the Turkmen team had a good story of successful performances in the international arena. Therefore, the national team succeed in all official matches, in which it participated with an amazing difference in goals scored and missed 95:14 (!).

At its first official international tournament in 2017 at the VIII Winter Asian Games in Sapporo, Japan, the daring debutant struck everyone with a confident and productive game. Participating in the Second Division, our team defeated the team of Malaysia (9: 2), Macao (16: 0), Iran (13: 2), and Indonesia (12: 2) in their group.

In the final game, the Turkmen team came together with its Central Asian neighbor – the national team of Kyrgyzstan. At the beginning of the match, scoring two goals, our team allowed the opponent to equalize even. However, having gathered, there were no more chances for neighbors in the region to return to the game, confidently defeating 7: 3 and winning small gold medals.

In addition, the team began the way to the heights of world hockey, confidently taking the only ticket to the Third Division of the World Cup in the tournament held in early 2018 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the qualification, they again met with the Asian teams (victory over the teams of the UAE 4: 0 and Kuwait 24: 2).

In the decisive match, the team from Europe, the hosts of the tournament – Bosnian team was defeated for the first time. I remember this match with numerous removals in our team, but having got used to such one-sided manner of refereeing, Turkmen hockey players did not fade away, but started to score … in the minority! This finally struck the local audience, initially expecting an easy victory over the newcomers from the unknown “not a hockey country”. Moreover, at the end of the match, it seemed, the only our team was on the ice rink. The result was 13: 3.

What kind of hockey does the Turkmen team play? Jora Khudaiberdyev, Chairman the Federation of Hockey of Turkmenistan, answered the question: “Our teams adhere to a high-speed combinational attacking style of play. The results of the games played demonstrate it clearly. Moreover, the coaching staff of the team headed by Bayram Allayarov pays special attention to the overall team speed of the game. Here the speed of movement and the technique of possession of the skate are important, as well as physical training plays a big role.

Physical abilities are one among other important skills. Decision-making speed is also very important. It is about tactical preparation, and the development of various combinations, so that each player feels and understands the action of his partner in advance. The work of the team as a whole and team cohesiveness are advantages of our team.”

We should note that our rivals were not from the elite of world hockey. However, many of them are long-time members of the hockey family. Our team is a debutant, and the debut turned out spectacular, the difference in the skill level is obvious.

Why? It is very simple, the difference in approaches. Turkmen hockey from the moment of its foundation followed the examples of the highest standards, taking them as a model. It includes the infrastructure and the coaching techniques as well as working with young people. The training camps of our teams in the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Latvia played a special role. Leading foreign coaches who have a rich experience advised our team.

The third year running, in December, the national team will hold practice session in the Olympic sports complex Raubichi, Republic of Belarus, which allows for serious sparring and adopting training methods from local specialists. This team practice will be an important stage in preparation of our national team to the main tournament of 2019 – 2019 World Hockey Championship III Division.

A memorandum of cooperation signed with the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia in this May will help to strengthen interaction with the strongest hockey federations of the world. The document provides the organization and holding of joint events such as friendly matches between the national teams of Russia and Turkmenistan, competitions between children’s and youth teams of countries, as well as scientific and methodical conferences and seminars for coaches and club management with the aim to exchange of experience and development of professional skills. In addition, the document includes an item on assistance on programs for the development of hockey refereeing in Turkmenistan. Interaction is planned for a wide range of issues.

The creation of infrastructure – ice arenas – was another important factor in the development of winter sports in the country. After all, in our climate conditions, the development of such kinds of sports as hockey is possible only in modern specially prepared complexes.

It all started with the opening of the first Ice Palace in 2006, where many Ashgabat residents and guests of the capital tried to skate simply that was a kind of exotic in our hot climate. The first connoisseurs of winter sports began to be selected among these youth.

Now, there are five ice arenas in the country, where ice battles can be held. There are already mentioned “National Olympic Sports Palace”, the “Sports Complex of Winter Sports” with two international-level sites – small and large – that in the CIS Top-10 in the terms of capacity. The most of the KHL domestic clubs are inferior in this indicator. At its venues, hockey has already become established as a full-fledged sport with serious prospects.

In 2014, the Winter Sports Center “Galkan” was opened under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan. Moreover, the first Ice Palace outside Ashgabat appeared in the National Tourist Zone “Avaza”, which will expand the country’s hockey geography.

The championships of the country are actively held. Quite recently, the fifth season has ended. Leading Turkmen hockey team “Galkan” of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan that has not yet lost the championship, became the winner again. It is also the base club of the national team. Despite the permanent champion’s title of “Galkan”, victories in the domestic arena are not easily given to team. The maximum skills need to be shown in each match. The rivals do not let to relax since they are always ready to slow down the leader. It is beneficial not only to the spectator of the domestic championship, but to the national team also, forcing players to improve their skills constantly. In this season, the teams of “Vatanchi” and “Shir” are in the top three winners also.

Attention paid to the preparation of reserves. Tournaments are held regularly among children and youth, which allow them to improve their skills in competition. The coaches of the adult teams, looking for young talents, closely monitor these tournaments. In addition, our team will participate in the Winter International Games “Children of Asia”, which will be held in February 2019 in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russian Federation. There, our young hockey players will be able to try their strength with peers from other countries.

Thus, in a very short period, hockey in Turkmenistan has passed the first stage of its development, and turned from exotic entertainment into a full-fledged sports structure with a multi-level training system and the first victories in the international arena. Of course, it is just the beginning of a long way, and there is still a lot to do in order to compete with the strongest in this kind of sport.

The start turns out impressive; the main thing is to keep a good pace of development in the future.