Midway through the 21st annual JFK Memorial Field Hockey Tournament yesterday on the Mall, Peter Kneteman walked the sidelines, chatting with friends and sipping rum and Coke from a Toronto Blue Jays mug.

His team, the D.C. Dutch Field Hockey Club, already had lost its first two matches, but Kneteman didn't seem to mind.

"Who cares?" he said. "This whole thing is just so much fun. I love it."

That was the prevailing mood of the opening round of this two-day round-robin tournament, which includes teams from the Bahamas, Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, Argentina and the Cayman Islands. Play resumes today, with the women's final scheduled at 3:15. The men's final will follow.

"This is what international hockey is all about," said Beth Anders, who played on the U.S. Olympic women's field hockey squad last year and is a member of the Red Rose team. "It's competitive during the day, but afterward, it's very social and we have a great time."

Manzan Iqbal, who competed in the JFK Memorial three times previously, said returning to the tournament was "like going to a carnival.

"You get a little sleep, you meet your friends, you joke around, then you wake up and get back onto the field. People don't really understand why we do it . . . This is our hobby."

Preparations for the tournament began in January, when the organizing committee determined which teams would be selected, and by March, invitations had been sent out. All along the committee sought a decidedly international tone.

"What we're trying to do," said Kneteman, the event's coordinator, "is promote the sport and at the same time bring people together from all over the world."