LAHORE: Urging all and sundry in national hockey fraternity to shun minor differences, Pakistan team’s head coach-cum-manager Akhtar Rasool has invited all the prominent Olympians to help him with their suggestions for achieving the prime target which he termed was nothing but resurrection of national hockey.
Akhtar stressed he wanted to start his mission to regain Pakistan’s glory in world hockey with the support and guidance of all the stakeholders.
“I believe every stakeholder wants the revival of national hockey. Therefore, we should ignore all the petty differences for a major goal [of reclaiming dominance in world hockey], and for this purpose I invite all the great Olympians of the past, who rendered great services for the game, to come forward and support me in our efforts to revive the national game,” Akhtar said while talking to Dawn on Monday.
Akhtar, who was given the charge as national team head coach just four months before the London Olympics where Pakistan earned a poor seventh position (one place above their eighth spot finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), has been retained until the 2014 World Cup.
Pakistan team’s next international assignments are the Champions Trophy (Melbourne) and Asian Champions Trophy (Qatar), both to be held in December. Pakistan qualified for the Champions Trophy after getting seventh spot at the London Olympics.
The national training camp has been in progress at the newly built Mian Sharif Stadium, Johar Town in Lahore, since Nov 1.
Akhtar, who sounded quite optimistic, expected a positive response from the former players.
“I hope the former Olympians will respond positively to my invitation. I have great respect for all of them and since I have played with them, there is no barrier between us, especially when our goal is common [to revive Pakistan hockey],” stated Akhtar, who captained Pakistan to their memorable triumph at the 1982 World Cup in New Delhi.
Several former Olympians namely Shahnaz Sheikh, Samiullah, Islahuddin Siddiqi and Manzoor Junior have been at loggerheads with the PHF management headed by Qasim Zia (president) and Asif Bajwa (secretary).
Meanwhile, showing zero-tolerance for indiscipline, Akhtar expelled defender Mohammad Irfan from the national training camp.
The head coach said Irfan had been excluded since he could not report at the camp on time after attending the marriage ceremony of international player Mohammad Zubair. Irfan’s expulsion from the camp has ruled him out of selection for the Champions Trophy and the Asian Champions Trophy.
“Despite my two warnings Irfan did not report to the camp, saying he has other jobs to do, while other probables, who also had gone to attend the [same] marriage, returned to the camp on time,” Akhtar noted.
“Irfan’s attitude [towards the game] indicates how serious he is in carrying out the national duty. His approach is unprofessional and owing to this very stance he had been penalised in the past too. However, this time we decided to give him a lesson,” Akhtar remarked. However, he said Irfan had the right to appeal before the disciplinary committee.
Moreover, Akhtar said the camp was progressing smoothly and all the probables were showing zeal and zest.
The coach hoped that the best possible squad for the Champions Trophy would be selected on Nov 13.
It is pertinent to mention here that Akhtar as head coach and head of the national team management, too, would pick the 16-member team, as the national selection committee has been dissolved recently.