Exclusive Interview with South Africa coach Cheslyn Gie

Exclusive: Interview with South Africa coach Cheslyn Gie

January 17, 2023

It has been only 70 days since Cheslyn Gie was handed the keys to the head coach’s office. But in his short stint as interim manager of South Africa, he has not only led the team back to the FIH Pro League but has also changed their fortunes for the foreseeable future. 

Picture Credit : Hockey India

As Dayaan Cassiem led his men onto the field of the Kalinga Hockey Stadium on the opening day of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023, interim coach Cheslyn Gie smiled on the sidelines. From resorting to crowdfunding their World Cup in 2018 to entering the 2023 edition as the FIH Nations Cup champions, it had been quite some ride. 

Gie has witnessed the entire journey from close quarters. He has been with the team since 2018 as an assistant coach/manager. In November 2022, he was asked to take over as head coach, albeit on a short-term contract. 

As South Africa gear to potentially shock Australia in their final World Cup fixture after losing their opening two, Gie sat down with SportsKhabri in Bhubaneswar to talk about his journey and inspiration. 

“Hockey is not a professional sport in South Africa. Rugby is our national sport and football (Bafana-Bafana) and cricket are the next big sports. The rest, just exist. So, while I am the interim coach of the South African team, it is a part-time job. Most of our staff work part time with SA Hockey [the national governing body of hockey in the country]. Even the players have different jobs or are just students,” said Gie. 

For the last 21 years, Gie has been working at the Nelson Mandela University as their hockey manager and coach. “I still work there and will go back once my contract ends. I look forward to applying again for the post of South African head coach but we’ll see after the World Cup.”

Also Read – Dark-horses Germany aim to reclaim top spot at FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023

When asked about Garreth Ewing, the man he replaced as head coach, Gie was all praise: “Myself and Garreth [have] come a long way. We were together with the national U21 team and have become friends over the years. We talk regularly, and he’s in fact coming here to Odisha sometime this week.”

In his short tenure as the interim head coach, Gie has guided the South African team back into the FIH Pro League after winning the inaugural FIH Nations Cup back in November 2022. “The tournament was quite important for us. We played in the Pro League last season and lost 15 out of 16 matches, but that helped us a lot. We got better with every single game and now you can see how close we are to the big teams. Also, winning the Nations Cup was not just a ticket to the Pro League; we got a big sponsor — SuperSport [a private TV channel in South Africa] on board for the World Cup after our win, which is very important for us.” For a team that struggled to put together finances for a World Cup only five years ago, it is a massive achievement and a testament to Gie’s success as a coach. 

With South Africa preparing to compete in the FIH Pro League next season, Gie shared a fond memory of the tournament — a meeting with his coaching inspiration, Ric Charlesworth. “He’s my all-time favorite coach, and a person I believe we must all aspire to be. I met him in Spain during the tournament and he gave me a signed copy of his book. He’s won everything there is to win in the game and it was a moment I’ll cherish forever.” Charlesworth is also on the commentary team for the ongoing FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar. 

Two close losses to Argentina and France may have ended South Africa’s hopes to qualify for the knockouts at the World Cup, but the team are determined to do better in the coming months. “We’ve shown progress in the last one year, and the Pro League played a big role in that. You can see that we lost to India 10-2 in February 2022 and almost beat them at the Commonwealth Games just six months later. So, if we keep playing matches against top teams, we will only grow and, hopefully, the sport can become professional in our country one day,” said Gie. 

South Africa play their final pool stage game at the World Cup against World No. 1, Australia, on January 20 in Rourkela. 

Also Read – FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Sponsors 

Yashodhan Nakhare

Yashodhan Nakhare is a 22 year old freelance hockey journalist who runs 'The Stick Flick' (@The_StickFlick)- a 'short corner' for all your hockey stories from around the world.

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