LAHORE: Pakistan has said it would help foster the development of field hockey in Afghanistan, hoping to replicate its success in supporting its war-ravaged neighbour's rise in cricket.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) promised to give Afghanistan a place in their domestic competitions and provide equipment, resources and technical assistance.
Since the Taliban's ouster in 2001, Pakistan has provided similar help to Afghan's cricketers which has seen them rise to one-day status in 2009 and qualify for back-to-back World Twenty20s in 2010 and 2012.
An “MoU was signed between PHF and Afghanistan Hockey Federation in which we have offered our professional support to the friendly country”, the PHF said in a statement.
Afghanistan have competed in field hockey at regional level but the sport lags behind the popularity football and cricket enjoy in the country.
Cricket has overtaken football in recent years, helped by the return of refugees who learned the game in Pakistan after fleeing the Soviet invasion in 1979.
The PHF said it would help field hockey take root in Afghanistan.
“There is a provision of technical assistance in restructuring and reformation of the game of hockey in Afghanistan on modern scientific lines and we will do that through our resources,” it said.
Pakistan have been a major force in field hockey, winning three Olympic titles and four world crowns, but have suffered a slump in recent years.
They are reigning Asian champions after winning the title in 2010 in China, despite dropping to their worst 12th finish in the World Cup (2010) and seventh in the Olympics in London last year.
Pakistan is one of the world's top hockey stick makers and the PHF said it would also donate 100 sticks and 100 balls to Afghanistan every year.