LAHORE: Holding the present Pakistan Hockey Federation officials responsible for national team’s miserable performance in the ongoing World Cup where the green-shirts were ruthlessly knocked out by Belg­ium, former Olympians Manzoor-ul-Hasan Senior and Samiullah Khan on Wednesday said regime change is mandatory for the revival of Pakistan hockey.

Placed in pool ‘D’, Mohammad Rizwan Senior-led Pakistan failed to record even a single win in the preliminary round. They lost the opener to Germany 1-0, barely drew with Malaysia 1-1 and were thrashed 5-1 by the Netherlands. And it was all over for Pakistan in the cross-over knockout match against Belgium who just toyed with the former four-time world champions to breeze into the quarter-finals with a facile 5-0 victory.

“The pathetic results produced by Pakistan at the World Cup shows complete lack of planning and preparation by the management. Therefore, the PHF officials should immediately resign; and if they don’t, the government should sack them,” both Manzoor and Samiuallh said while talking to Dawn.

“Not even in one match Pakistan performed like an integrated unit; rather it looked as if individuals or groups [within a team] are playing,” lamented Manzoor. “Yes, Pakistan started off well against Germany but in a World Cup no team can make an impact on the basis of good show in just one match. You need to demonstrate high-quality game consistently in all outings to create chances for yourself to advance.”

A disgruntled Manzoor held the federation — whom he claimed did not even develop domestic hockey — responsible for the disaster Pakistan went through in the 16-nation showpiece at Bhubaneswar.

“The PHF officials and the team management should immediately resign and if they don’t go the government should take necessary action to send them home,” he insisted.

“Instead of preparing a world-class team, the current PHF management has been busy to form parallel bodies at district and provincial levels to get votes in order to remain in the federation,” he alleged.

“Furthermore, the PHF has completely failed to develop infrastructure at domestic level, and this is the reason Pakistan hockey has undergone alarming decline in recent years.”

Meanwhile noting that Pakistan delivered their worst performance at the mega event, Samiullah emphasised the present PHF regime must leave the scene if the country is to see the national team qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

“The PHF made a mockery of the affairs by failing to appropriately prepare the team [for a major event like the World Cup] during its tenure, and has been taking decisions on ad hoc basis,” Samiullah said.

“Pakistan lost their opener to Germany, though by a close margin. However, after this match, rather than looking to bring improvement in weak areas, we started praising the team for a small-margin defeat. And the results in the next games exposed all the shortcomings.

“The current PHF management should say goodbye to the federation and the government should bring in better people [to manage the game] as time is running out for us to qualify for the 2020 Olympics,” Samiullah warned.

Responding to a question whether the approach adopted by the government — which did not rescue a cash-strapped PHF prior to the World Cup — towards the national game was right, Samiullah defended the government stance, saying “Current PHF officials could not maintain their reputation to receive financial support from the government.”

But when insisted that it (hockey) was a matter of national importance and the government should have played its due role, Samiullah agreed but said there must be a proper system according to which the PHF should be run smoothly in case of change in government.

Underlining that the PHF management — rather than concentrating on building a strong team — has been running its affairs on adhoc basis, Samiullah said the induction of Tauqir Dar (head coach) and Danish Kaleem (assistant coach) at the eleventh hour before the national camp for the World Cup started reflects poor planning by the federation.

He added that the PHF also raised a developing squad but it had failed to even produce a single player from it despite spending millions of rupees on the activity. “Kamran Ashraf, the coach of the developing squad, has also disappeared from the scene.”

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018