Pakistan celebrate with their bronze medals at the Champions Trophy. -Photo by AFP

LAHORE: Declaring annual awards for the country’s best players in international competitions in three different categories for the first time, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Monday announced a busy 2013 for the seniors in order to field a formidable squad in the 2014 World Cup.

According to PHF secretary, the federation will provide around 35 to 40 international matches to its senior team in the year 2013 for preparing a strong team for the 2014 World Cup, which is the main target of the current federation.

Shakeel Abbasi (senior), Dilber (junior) and Rabia Qadir (national women’s team) earned the awards, along with a purse of Rs100,000 (senior) and Rs50,000 each for the junior and women’s categories.

The announcements were made at back-to-back annual PHF Congress meetings held here on Monday.

The trophy for the best senior team player is named after late Air Marshal Nur Khan, the great hockey personality, while the junior and women’s trophies are named after late M.H. Atif, a well-known hockey figure.

Bajwa told reporters the trophies had been given to the sports heads of the players’ respective departments, as the players were not available to attend the function.

“The two houses of the PHF also approved a hectic domestic and international activity programme for senior, junior and women’s teams,” Bajwa stated.

He said international calendar of activity was yet to be given final shape but added that the national senior team would be featuring in around 35 to 40 matches during the year 2013 in order to prepare a strong outfit for the 2014 World Cup.

“From day one our main target has been the 2014 World Cup. And after winning bronze medal at the [recently held] Champions Trophy [in Melbourne] after eight years followed by triumph in the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha signals that we are on the right track.

“By playing 35 to 40 matches in 2013 the senior team will be better prepared for the game’s premier extravaganza,” Bajwa said, referring to the 2014 World Cup.

The PHF official further said that since the details of the matches — planned for Pakistan’s senior team during 2013 — were being finalised the PHF could not announce the complete programme of matches at this stage.

Commenting on Pakistan-India hockey relations, Bajwa reckoned the agreement between the PHF and Hockey India was also a major achievement made by the PHF. According to the agreement, Pakistan will tour India for a five-match series in the last week of March 2013 before the Indians undertake a return visit to Pakistan for as many matches in mid April.

He said though the dates for the Pakistan-India matches had not been finalised, the proposed venues for the Pakistan leg of the series were Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Peshawar. “The detailed programme of the series will be announced after the government clearance.”

Bajwa also revealed information about the domestic programme for the year 2013.

“The National Tray Championship will be held in Peshawar from Jan 18. And the main round of the National Championship has been allotted to Sialkot, and will begin from Feb 13. The National Junior Championship will be staged in Faisalabad from Jan 28,” he added.

“Besides it, an annual national event for the seniors after the name of Brig. Atif had also been included by the PHF in its calendar of activities.”

The Junior Super Hockey League would be held in Karachi in July, he added.

He said the two houses of the PHF also approved the federation’s budget for the year 2012-13 amounting to Rs593.5 million with a deficit of Rs280 million.

“In order to eliminate the budget deficit, the PHF will set up a marketing department to raise its own financial resources,” Bajwa stated.

“Currently, federal government is the main contributor for the PHF. However, lately after Pakistan’s impressive show at the international level [in Champions Trophy and Asian Champions Trophy], the game of hockey has also become a saleable product, and has everything to attract sponsors,” he noted.

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