Buying bread can become a prerequisite for playing field hockey for teams from the Soviet Union and its republics. The Brest men's team from Belorussia brought with them, across the Atlantic to the Reflecting Pool and the John F. Kennedy Memorial field hockey tournament, five days of rations for the players and coaches because "we have a lot of rubles but not a lot of dollars," said Coach Yevgeniy Watkin.
It's almost the same here, where budget battles nearly canceled the tournament. Museums, monuments and maintenance of tournaments were shut down over the weekend until a last-minute agreement between park and tournament officials continued the international event in its 26th year of play.
Budgets and bread notwithstanding, the tournament enjoyed its highest level of play ever, attracting 14 foreign men's and women's teams. And the foreigners provided the most excitement. Brest beat defending champion Lutch from Minsk in the semifinals on penalty strokes after a 1-1 regulation finish, then breezed past Nigeria's El Kameni Flickers, 2-0, in the final.
And Brest wasn't even supposed to be here. It showed up and, fortunately for the players, another Nigerian team had visa problems and could not exit its country.
Women from neighboring Soviet republics showcased the most explosive play of the two-day event. Defending champion Taurus Sports Club of Lithuania had to come here to beat Rhythm Field Hockey club from Belorussia, its southern neighbor, in overtime, since the team refuses to play in the Soviet Union.
"We can meet only in America," said Leonardas Caikauskas, the general secretary of the Lithuanian Field Hockey Association. His brother, Remus, is the Taurus coach. "We took ourselves out of the championship with Russia, we went as our own country, not just a republic. Now, the only place we meet is overseas."
After running furiously and diving in the dirt for most of regulation, both teams scored once in the closing minutes and then played two 15-minute overtimes. In penalty strokes, a former shot putter -- 22-year-old Rassa Baniultye -- held Rhythm to just one score while her teammates put the ball in at will.