WHEN Vanesa Sabala moved to Scotland from her native Argentina she turned to hockey to help her make new friends, joining Loch Lomond Hockey Club.

She never imagined that, years later, she’d be pulling on a Scotland strip and representing her adopted country as part of the Scottish Hockey Masters team, playing internationally.

As the Cardross woman prepares to represent Scotland 45s in the Home Nations Hockey Masters tournament in London this week she said: “I have played the sport since I was six and, when I first came to Scotland, joining a club was a great way to meet new people.

“Now I can say that hockey has truly given me friends for life.”

Vanesa has played Masters hockey for the past three years, including the largest competitive hockey tournament ever staged – last summer’s World Cup in Barcelona – an experience she says she’ll “never forget”.

The Strathclyde University Spanish teaching fellow is one of four Loch Lomond players involved in the Masters programme.

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Striker Rosie McColgan (45) is her team-mate in the 45s, whilst Jane Neil and Anne McGregor play for the 60s.

Every year players have to make it through trials, commit to a fitness programme, attend extensive training sessions and be part of a squad assembled from all over Scotland.

All four players need to cover a multitude of costs including access to top-level training, accommodation and travel.

“If there’s anyone out there who can lend us a hand then we’d be really grateful,” adds Vanesa.

The mum-of-two has already played warm up matches against a North of England select in Durham in April, where Scotland recorded a 1-0 win on the Saturday and a 0-0 draw on the Sunday.

This week Vanesa and Rosie will travel to Southgate Hockey Club outside London for the Home Nations tournament, taking on Wales, Ireland and England. Then it’s off to Rotterdam in July for the European Championships.

“I competed in the Euros which were held in The Netherlands in 2017,” says Vanesa, “It’s a fantastic country to play hockey in. We’ll be up against The Netherlands, Spain and Wales.”

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The West District Division Two Player of the Year is thrilled to be able to represent Scotland once again at the highest level.

“It is always special to test yourself against the top players in the world,” she said.

“I’ve played Masters hockey for the past four years and it is tough – but ultimately rewarding. I am so proud to represent Scotland.”

Any local businesses able to sponsor Vanesa should get in touch with her on vanesa_sabala@hotmail.com.

For more information on the Masters programme see scottishwomensmastershockey.uk/.