If the words of the head coach of the national hockey teams are worth anything, the door has been closed on the senior players. It would be difficult for even a diehard fan of the national game — and, frankly, there are not many — to be sure how many times the same thing has been said by those in authority.

The recent Executive Board meeting of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) made some policy changes in the structure, giving team management more responsibility by doing away with the selection committee. This may or may not produce the desired effect, but the reasoning put forward by the PHF makes one shy of expecting too much.

In the words of the PHF secretary, the step has been taken “on the pattern of other hockey playing countries” and by following the pattern, the PHF boss hoped that the move would “bring good results for Pakistan”. This can hardly be called a vision for the future. More than trying to do something, the PHF is simply trying to be seen as doing something after the debacle in London.

While there can be little issue with the appointment of Hanif Khan as the national coach for he has the credentials to hold his own in any assignment, there is much mess floating around the newly-appointed consultant. Tahir Zaman has his plusses, including his coaching qualifications, but if the words of the PHF secretary — “senior and junior team management can consult him on any technical problem” — are anything to go by, his appointment fails to make sense. Khan having to consult Zaman on technical problems is nothing but a joke — a bad joke.

Till recently, Zaman was part of the camp that has been exposing PHF’s follies — both intentional and unintentional — for the last few years. After the team came crashing down in London, the PHF management had been trying to woo a few names to shift sides. About a couple of weeks ahead of the Executive Board meeting, Zaman had a session with the PHF bosses and had publicly announced his decision to join the PHF brigade.

Of course, he did it in the larger interest of the game and without anything having been offered to him. On its part, the PHF, of course, has elevated him to the rank of consultant in the larger interest of the game and without any regard to his decision to shift sides. And, of course, those who follow the game and have seen its unfortunate decline in the last two decades just know both the claims as mere rubbish. If the PHF and Zaman think they can sell it so conveniently, they are surely far removed from reality.

Let’s hear it from Arshad Chaudhry, who was a member of the selection committee that has been sent packing. “The decision to appoint Zaman, who is coaching a poor-ranking team in Egypt, is mind-boggling. I wonder how Akhtar Rasool (the head coach), Hanif Khan (the coach) and Ahmad Alam (the junior team coach), who have all remained captains of the national team, will prefer to consult Zaman. His presence may cause a rift between the PHF and the team management in the future,” he said in Lahore after the PHF announcement.

Those who may take his words as a case of sour grapes would do well to recall that Chaudhry was the one who had initiated the idea of doing away with the selection committee despite being a member himself.

But the PHF’s hand was probably forced by its desire — call it compulsion, if you will — to accommodate Zaman after he decided to ditch his former camp and join hands with those he had been actively criticising for so long.

The federation may have successfully resolved the issue by ‘giving’ him something which may actually mean nothing on the ground. But in doing so, it has earned the ire of those who have the interest of the game closer to their heart than anything else.

The PHF may think it has one critic less to deal with, but the crass manner in which it has gone about it has, in fact, only ensured that there will be many more than it could possibly imagine.

But will it matter? Unfortunately, it will not.

humair.ishtiaq@gmail.com


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