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

Revive departments, change the domestic structure and join forces with the Olympians: Shahnaz Sheikh

Maintain consistency by enhancing competence and avoiding complacency. Observe these three rules and you will be fine. We won the Asian Games hockey event in 2010 and then the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) claimed that it spelt the revival of hockey in Pakistan. But the growth, if it could be called that, dipped again.

Now we have got medals in two back-to-back tournaments. The last time we reached the final of the Champions Trophy was in Lahore in 1998 when I was the team’s chief coach and Khawaja Zakauddin its manager. And it was after eight years that we got any medal in this championship started by Pakistan. After bronze in the main event, we also bagged gold in the Asian Champions Trophy. I only want this performance to be maintained.

And for that to happen the PHF should change its mechanism. Give the responsibility of training at the grassroots to the professionals. They should also think of ways to enhance local hockey, make the domestic structure more competitive.

Now you see the departments that used to award jobs to the players disbanding their teams. As many as 12 departments including United Bank Limited, Allied Bank Limited, Steel Mills, Muslim Commercial Bank, Karachi Port Trust, Karachi Electric Supply Company, Pakistan Telecommunications Limited have withdrawn support to the hockey players.

I remember when I was in college I knew that my playing well also meant my getting a good job. I had offers from the Police, Pakistan Railways and the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) of which I opted for the corporate sector and joined PIA. Later, I had more offers from the National Bank of Pakistan and Pakistan Customs, which also had fine hockey teams, but I decided to stay with my department. I served PIA for 38 years and retired from there as deputy general manager.

My game gave me much respect but what have the players of today got? Why would they even want to play hockey without any incentives? Unless you involve the corporate sector in healthy sports such as hockey, the players won’t want to play and work hard.

PHF’s president is a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) man and if he couldn’t revive hockey in this country during the PPP government’s rule then who else can I wonder … There is hardly any international hockey here. PHF cannot generate its own funds. They live on grants.

With what happened to the Pakistan players visiting India to play in their league there this time, I wonder if the Pakistan-India series chalked out for March-April is even going to take place now. There is still time to announce a parallel league during that time. Why should the boys have to lose out? Meanwhile, I also think that the PHF should demand payment for the players who have returned from India on security grounds. It is irrelevant if they played in the league or not. The fact is that they went there to play but had to return not by their own choice. They must be paid for it.

And when the Pakistan national hockey team returns after winning an event the boys should be duly honoured and awarded, too. PHF is being downright stupid for not having done that already.

I know that the PHF wants good foreign teams to tour Pakistan but if that is not happening for now why can’t we change our domestic structure and start a hockey league here for which we can get three or four well-known foreign hockey players each time. The league, too, can be organised after every six months. The players who visit Pakistan to take part in the league can change how the others view Pakistan. They can go back and tell them that we are a friendly sport-loving country. The PHF was on the right track a couple of years back when they started the Super League but I wonder what happened to it. Now they seem to have no vision at all. They are just blowing government money, if you ask me.

Also, Pakistan is blessed with a treasure trove of renowned hockey players of yesteryear. The PHF needs them. They should ask them to use their sources and good relations with foreign players, etc., in order to invite them here.

PHF is more of a facilitator: Asif Bajwa

People should not be blaming the PHF for everything the team does as the federation is more of a facilitator than anything else. We on our part will do whatever it takes to help the players perform well and that is as far as we can go, really. We are not the coaches but we will listen to our coaching staff and help them in applying their plans. Our coaches have told us they want the team to play some 50 to 60 matches before next year’s Hockey World Cup so we will make sure that this happens.

In order for us to make that happen we are engaged in negotiations with the big teams of the world. There is already the planned calendar for 2013 which has the team playing in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the Pakistan-India series, the World League in Holland and the Asia Cup. I know there are rumours doing the rounds right now about the Pakistan-India series not happening but it is still on our calendar for this year. We can’t rule it out just yet.

In addition we are trying to get matches with Holland, Germany, Australia, England and Spain and are talking to the hockey federations in all these countries.

Plus, there are many programmes planned for the junior team, too.

Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh and PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa were speaking to Shazia Hasan

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