LAHORE: Visibly disappointed over the current state of national hockey affairs, Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary and former Olympian Shahbaz Ahmed said on Saturday that no one can single-handedly rescue it from its decline and collective efforts are needed from all stakeholders to keep the game alive in the country.
Talking to reporters after the prize distribution of the four-nation FIH Hockey Series at the National Hockey Stadium here, Shahbaz said: “It is all blame-game at the moment but it will not serve any purpose as all stakeholders must join hands to keep the game alive in the country.”
“Bring 10 secretaries like me for the PHF and 20 coaches, but no one can change the fate of the game in Pakistan if we will not have the atmosphere to match the standard of the world hockey,” Shahbaz said.
“We cannot provide nourishing diet to our players and there is also uncertainty whether the players would get their daily allowances or not. The new Inter-provincial ministry has been working for the last four months but the PHF could not hold even a single meeting with it. So what are you talking about betterment in hockey,” lamented Shahbaz while accepting that his three-year tenure just could not alter the fate of the game as basic problems still existed.
To a question that last head coach Tauqir Dar had suggested the PHF to hire foreign coach, Shahbaz said no doubt Tauqir in a short period of his 20-day assignment with the national side for the World Cup tried his best to boost the morale of the players. “Unless and until Pakistan hockey overcomes its local problems, no foreign coach can serve the purpose here,” he observed.
Shahbaz added that neither Hasan Sardar nor anyone else could bring any major change in the techniques of the players without having a proper system in place. “Olympian Hasan was appointed as manager and as head coach because he was a role model for the Pakistan team. Unfortunately it did not have the desired effect on the team.”
He said though Pakistani players were good in basic skills, they lacked temperament and confidence which they could only earn through high-class competitive matches. “ But at the moment, Pakistan is also facing problems in arranging matches against top teams,” he admitted.
“Army is the strong entity of the country just because it has established proper infrastructure but we have no hockey grounds and now the youth is not showing much interest in playing hockey. Even my children don’t like to even see or play hockey,” confessed Shahbaz.
When reminded that Pakistan captain Rizwan Senior had held the PHF responsible for the poor results in the recently concluded World Cup-2018, Shahbaz said he would wait till the manager’s report before making any comment on it. But he said it was all blame-game and it was not the solution to the current situation.
To a question, Shahbaz said the same situation was also facing squash where two of the game’s biggest players — legendary Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan — could not change the fate of the game in Pakistan as qualified coaches and a proper system was needed.
“We can bring improvement in hockey gradually. We also need at least four academies having accommodation facilities for the players. We need to bring big improvement in the fitness level of players. Their test level is around 19 to 20 while Australian and European players are touching fitness standard to the levels of 24 to 33. Until we touch that fitness level we can not perform,” he emphasised.
He expressed confidence that the forthcoming hockey league could prove to be a game changer for Pakistan hockey but for that to go off the ground, the PHF required Rs30 million to 40 million every year.
“Until PHF gets sound financial resources regularly it will be hard to meet the expenses of the senior and junior teams,” stressed Shahbaz. “I don’t want to tell the Indian hockey budget but their players are earning between Rs8 to 9 million annually while Pakistani players have to play league hockey abroad to earn good money.’
To a question, the secretary thanked the FIH for allowing PHF to play its home and away matches of the Pro-Hockey League, starting from February, at the same venue and it would save some of PHF’s expenses. Pakistan have to play Argentina in the first round of the newly-introduced league hockey in Argentina and then it will also play host for the home series.
He also thanked the FIH for allotting the Hockey Series to Pakistan and he expressed hope that in April, Poland’s team would also visit Pakistan. He said the Hockey Series event would play a positive role in getting more international hockey matches at home.
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2018