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KARACHI: The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary, former Olympian Shahbaz Ahmed Senior, on Friday accused media of working against the spirit of nationalism and creating fuss against the national game.

“I’m not a magician to revive the glorious days overnight,” he told newsmen at a press conference that was convened at a short notice at the Islahuddin-Dr M. A. Shah Hockey Stadium on Friday.

The former Olympian said he had already mentioned that the team will take time to shape up and rise to the occasion.

In a harsh tone Shahbaz, who himself led a revolt against the then PHF on the eve of 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said that he avoids media as they lack nationalism.

He also called upon the players to play like Tipu Sultan and not act like Mir Jaffer in the Asian Games.

Responding to questions, he made it clear that Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans and the selection committee are solely responsible for the team’s selection.

At the outset, the PHF President Brig (retd) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar for the first time made a disclosure that the PHF had received approximately Rs450m in three years which makes approximately Rs150m a year.

Of the above amount, the central government doled out Rs310m, Sindh government gave Rs100m while the remaining came through sponsors etc, he added.

Comparing PHF’s budget with that of India he said the annual budget of neighbouring country’s hockey team is approximately Indian Rs one billion which is much much higher than Pakistan.

Perturbed over volley of questions pertaining to the assumptions of change of guards after the installation of new government and allegations of his close relation to former federal minister Ahsan Iqbal, Kho­khar denied to have assumed office through the latter’s connection. “I’ve come with dignity and, if and when, desire to go with dignity,”he said.

Asked why the PHF has not created an effective marketing department, Khokhar said: “It is a make or break team and the product will become sell-able when it returns to winning ways.”

To another question the PHF president said he had disbursed approximately Rs17.5m as part of outstanding payments of players and team officials by arranging money through his own resources.

He said hockey is the national game and therefore needs to be given due importance. He also called upon the government to finance a five-year plan.

The retired brigadier said he had individually met the Asian Games bound players who are optimistic about doing well at the Games which is evident from their body language.

He sounded confident that the greenshirts will ‘inshallah return victorious.’ He said the PHF has lined-up two practice matches of Pakistan team before the Asian Games.

Speaking on the occasion, team captain Mohammad Rizwan Senior said Pakistan team is motivated for the mega event and will hopefully regain the gold medal.

Coach Oltmans said he wants the team to perform step-by-step with first task of making it to the semi-final which should be followed by devising a strategy of winning it and advancing to final and then going for the gold.

“It will depend on how the players capitalise on the scoring chances,” he remarked. “The team has trained well and improved mentally, physically and technically and hopefully deliver the goods.”

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018