ISLAMABAD: It seems the deeper country’s field hockey plunges, the more emphatic becomes Pakistan Hockey Federation’s long-held claim of “we have achieved our targets” of raising a better team for major international competitions.
While the national senior team on their recent tour of Australia for an invitational four-nation tournament in Melbourne not only suffered their worst-ever loss (1-9 to Australia) during the event but also experienced two humiliating defeats at the hands of Japan to finish last, PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed Senior insists the federation’s focus was on raising a better team for the 2018 Asian Games.
Shahbaz while acknowledging that PHF’s approach of making changes in the team during the last two years resulted in poor performance by the team, said it was a strategic move as the focus of PHF was not to win titles but to create a better team for the upcoming Asian Games.
“Our focus was not to win tournaments, rather we kept focus on raising a better national team …somehow we have achieved our targets,” Shahbaz said while speaking to Dawn on Thursday.
The PHF secretary even claimed that the national team, which is presently in the doldrums after suffering a string of defeats in international contests over the past two years, would play the final of 2018 Asian Games.
The Games are scheduled to be staged in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia in August-September.
“Mark my words, we will make every effort to show brilliant performance in the Asian Games to book place in the next Olympic Games [Tokyo 2020],” Shahbaz said, adding that special emphasis was being laid on junior level hockey, such as U-16 events.
Apparently, Shahbaz looked disturbed by Wednesday’s press talk by the office-bearers of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hockey Association (KPHA) in Peshawar, during which they hurled serious allegations of financial mismanagement and gross violation of rules in the PHF and asked the National Accountability Bureau to launch probe into the matter and take action against those involved.
“I always worked with honesty and dignity; my entire career as player and organiser is like an open book, there is no truth in allegations you are questioning regarding any embezzlement [in PHF],” the former Olympian maintained, adding that he would welcome KPHA’s demand of probe into PHF accounts.
On Wednesday, PHF senior vice-president Mohammad Saeed Khan and KPHA secretary Syed Zahir Shah made the above-mentioned allegations against the PHF.
They alleged that huge funds were withdrawn from bank on single signature which was totally illegal as the funds were kept in a joint-account of PHF president and secretary.
“Anyone can probe our accounts, it’s true we withdrew cash from banks by not following the procedure but we did this to meet necessary expenditure,” PHF president retired Brig Khalid Sajjad Khokhar stated while talking to Dawn.
It is worth mentioning here the KPHA had said that government during the last couple of years had provided Rs460 million funds to PHF, and out of this amount Rs220 million were drawn without completing the necessary procedure.
Shahbaz said that he didn’t want to indulge himself in blame game against KPHA.
“I would say that these type of press conferences and loose talks are creating bad taste for [our] hockey,” Shahbaz said.
According to reports, Saeed and Zahir during Wednesday’s presser also expressed displeasure over the treatment meted out to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa teams in the National U-16 Hockey Championship, They claimed that all three teams from KP that had gone to participate in the U-16 event at Khairpur were made to return to Peshawar from the tournament.
“Our fault is that we have questioned the withdrawal of huge monies from different accounts without fulfilling the required criteria and the PHF management in return did not allow our three teams, which we had selected by holding trials, to compete in the national U-16 championship and sent them [back] to Peshawar,” a media report quoted Zahir as saying at the presser.
He further alleged that the PHF secretary had verbally told the organisers of the championship not to allow the KP teams to participate in the U-16 event.
Responding to this, Shahbaz on Thursday said to remove the KPHA concerns, the PHF had decided to hold trials in Mardan on Nov 30 where the national selection committee will select KP players for the U-16 championship.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017