KARACHI: The former hockey Olympians of the game have once again joined hands in a bid to save the national sport from further shame as the officials of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) refuse to either step down or come up with any positive measures following the Olympic flop in London last month.
“We were here before too, in 2010, after the national team finished 12th out of 12 teams in the World Cup. And we are back again now with the resolve to save the game and will not give up until we see some good thing happening for hockey which the current PHF management has not been able to do in the past four years,” said Shahnaz Sheikh while addressing the media at a jam-packed press conference at the Karachi Press Club here on Friday.
“What has the current PHF management done for hockey in the past four years except for reducing it to mediocrity and ruining it,” he said. “When the team comes 12th in the World Cup, seventh in Champions Trophy and eighth and seventh in the two Olympics, the results speak for themselves. While the game has suffered like never before, the PHF has only fired coaches, banned players, divided the Olympians and done nothing for improving the infrastructure, only saving their necks and their jobs during this time.”
“And what to say of chief selector Hanif Khan who claimed that the team he had put together will finish among the top four. The same goes for team coach Akhtar Rasool who issued a ridiculous statement just before the last group match in London that “our target is actually the 2014 World Cup.”
Shahnaz further added: “After every tournament, our team management announced that the players are improving and they have marked the grey areas. God only knows when they would be able to cover these ‘grey areas’. They have been awarded Rs 80-85 crores in funding by the government and they still couldn’t do anything for hockey.”
The brilliant forward of his time said PHF had been fooling the public with their claims that several academies in the country were working to prepare many young players for the country’s future. “The PHF says there are 19 academies working all over the country with a pool of 622 players. If they had such a big pool of players, why would they be fielding players who are in their mid 30s?” asked Shahnaz.
“And why couldn’t they take along a seasoned goalkeeper like Salman Akbar to the Games? As everyone saw, one of the main reasons for the team’s failure at the Olympics was the goalkeeper who performed so poorly but could not be replaced since we had no other option,” he pointed out.
Another ex-Olympian Ayaz Mahmood said that there was nothing that the current PHF management could do for improving hockey therefore they should now shoulder the blame and step down. “We want genuine and honest people who know how to work in the PHF,” he said.
Olympian Wasim Feroz was of the opinion that the PHF was too busy creating an eye wash and nothing concrete was being done.
“What do they mean by saying that the team did well in a three-nation or four-nation event? The events that really count are the World Cup, Olympics, Champions Trophy and Asian Games. Tell us about those,” he demanded.
Olympian Rashid-ul-Hassan said that he was not interested in seeing Pakistan play India as it would do nothing for the team.
“Pakistan is currently ranked ninth in the world while India is ranked 12th. We should be playing better sides like Australia and Holland in order to improve, not the lowly-ranked India,” he argued.
Former captain Islahuddin Siddiqui said that four years ago when the current PHF management took over the national team was ranked sixth in the world but now it is ranked ninth according to the FIH rankings which is a sorry state of affairs. “And the results speak for themselves, we are only slipping, becoming physically and technically weaker. It is not that the other teams have gotten better, it is really that we have gotten worse.”
Islah went on to say: “There was a time in the old days that if Pakistan team finished second or third in an event, we would not show our faces to our countrymen. And look how the current players and the management is behaving today, with no shame or regret to show for their failure. I must say the current PHF management is the biggest threat to the game of hockey today. They should be ashamed of themselves!”
“Myself and my friends have gathered here and humbly appeal to the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zaradar and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Pervez Ashraf to fire the current PHF management and form an adhoc committee at once which may include three former players, one person from the Sports Board and one from the government, to run the affairs of hockey. As for us Olympians, we are always there for any help or advice,” he concluded.
The meeting was also attended by ex-Olympians Akhtar ul Islam, Qamar Zia, Qamar Ibrahim, Kamran Ashraf, Safdar Abbas among others.
The Olympians pledged that will not rest till they see the ouster of the current PHF management for which they would even hold a sit-in outside the parliament house in Islamabad.