CAPE TOWN – Dayaan Cassiem believes the South African Men’s hockey team’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics has given people back home “hope” for the sport’s growth.
Cassiem and his teammates bowed out of the competition on Friday morning after another thrilling 4-4 draw with Canada in their final Pool B clash. South Africa required an outright victory to have any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Although the South Africans did not advance to the next stage, they certainly performed admirably in their first appearance at the Olympics since 2012.
It was a pulsating affair as Canada and our men bid farewell to the tournament with an eight goal thriller in Tokyo. It had entertainment, goals and drama and we know the hockey community enjoyed the ride! We are progressing and we are growing! Thank you Tokyo!#hockeyinvites pic.twitter.com/wOUTuQGr9l— SA Hockey (@SA_Hockey) July 30, 2021
Their 4-3 win over fifth-ranked Germany was a particular highlight, especially with South Africa ranked nine places lower than the Germans on the global table.
“I think the tournament was really good. It was a great experience for all of us, especially as it was the first Olympics for most of us. It’s been amazing,” Cassiem told IOL Sport from the Olympic village.
“I think we definitely gave hockey in South Africa some hope in terms of moving forward. I think we did well as a team. We reached our goal of beating one of the top eight teams, and we did that really well against Germany. I think we can definitely move forward from this. It was a good tournament and I’m really keen for the future and what lies ahead for South African hockey.”
Cassiem, who finished as South Africa’s joint-highest goal scorer with short-corner specialist Matthew Guise Brown, was excellent on the left-flank in the Canadian match where he set up Nick Spooner’s goal which put South Africa 2-0 ahead in the first quarter after Nqobile Ntuli opened the scoring after just two minutes.
At this stage the South Africans were starting to dream that the impossible may in fact be transformed into reality.
The Canadians, though, were never going to relent without a fight. They levelled the game up at 2-2 by halftime, and then came back twice again from 3-2 and 4-3 down to break South Africa’s hearts minutes before the final hooter.
Cassiem and his teammates were left devastated with almost the entire team sprawled across the astro turf as the reality that their Tokyo2020 fairytale was over.
Meanwhile, the South Africa’s women’s team were also knocked out after a 4-1 defeat to Germany earlier on Friday morning. They have one game remaining against India on Saturday.