The Gaziantep Police Force field hockey team will represent Turkey in the European Open Field Clubs Championship, to be held in Slovenia.
The Gaziantep Police Force Field Hockey Team — made up entirely of former street children — has been the nationwide field hockey champion three years running, and will represent Turkey in the European Open Field Clubs Championship to be held in Slovenia on May 8-11.
The team was established in 2003 and finished its first hockey season in its 14-team league in fourth place. Its success then and now is attributable to government-civilian cooperation, the combined efforts of Yusuf Kasım, the trainer of the national field hockey team and a physical education teacher, police officers from the Gaziantep Police Department, businessmen in Gaziantep and the young players. Of the team’s 15 players, 14 have played in national matches and four have been granted national player status; some have even begun studying at sports academies.
But the team got off to a rocky start. Kasım says that when they first began, they had to hold practices on streets and at parks. “They have been working with me since they were 13. When we were working at the park, some children watching would come and ask what we were doing. They soon developed interests in hockey and started to work with us. They are now playing national matches,” he notes. Kasım indicates that Asım Akçacı, a star on the team, used to sniff glue. “We’ve managed to create a hockey player out of him. Now, he’s the team captain. He has played in 19 national matches — we are proud of him,” he says.
Akçacı is very grateful to his coach, who he credits for saving him from the bad habit. “After meeting Kasım, I was saved from the streets and addiction. I call on all addicted children to engage in sports and thus escape,” he says.
SERKAN CANBAZ GAZİANTEP