THE year 2018 was a complete disaster for Pakistan hockey, both on and off the field. It started with humiliation in tri-series at Muscat and ended in the same fashion at Bhubaneswar World Cup. In between, there was a brief spell of slight improvement under Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans but that did not last long.
Though the 12th-position finish in the 16-nation World Cup, which was the worst-ever for Pakistan, brought shame and dismay for the 180 million population back home, not a soul in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) appeared too bothered about the fiasco including its President retired Brig Khalid Sajjad Khokhar, a relative of former PML Minister Ahsan Iqbal, and secretary Shahbaz Ahmed both of whom unashamedly held on to their jobs.
Instead of accepting their complete failure to run hockey in 2018, the PHF hierarchy, as expected of them, pointed fingers at Imran Khan’s government for not releasing funds to save their skin.
Shahbaz finally resigned from the secretary’s post on Dec 29 citing government’s step-motherly treatment to the national game.
“When the government and the ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) don’t have either the time or funds for the national game then I also don’t have time for hockey,” Shahbaz said in his resignation.
On the eve of national team’s departure to Jakarta for Asian Games in Aug, Khokhar, for the first time, told newsmen that the PHF had received approximately Rs 450m, Rs 150m a year, from the government which was unsufficient.
The above grant is besides the funds that the PHF earned from other sources including the owner of Peshawar Zalmi, a cricket outfit of Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Reports say the Sindh government bailed out the PHF by doling out Rs100m to ensure Pakistan’s participation in the World Cup and to settle player’s outstanding dues.
It is pertinent to mention that owner of Quetta Gladiators Mr Nadeem Omar had also come to the rescue of Pakistan hockey team once in the previous set-up.
And in the same press conference, Shahbaz, in a harsh tone, accused media of working against the spirit of nationalism and creating fuss against the national game.
All said and done. It is the PHF which should be blamed for lavish spending, ill planning and lack of vision during the last three years and making a mountain out of a molehill.
The 12th position in the quadrennial competition has reminded the rise and fall of four-time former world champions Pakistan’s previous worst performance at the 1986 London World Cup when the greenshirts defeated arch-rivals India 3-2, not for the title clash but for the 11th-12th position classification match.
At the outset, Pakistan won the triangular series opener against Oman 3-0 before being held by Japan 2-2 and Oman 4-4. Making amends, the greenshirts got the better of Japan 2-1 again.
After attaining top two positions in the double league, both Japan and Pakistan once again clashed in the final where the former whipped the latter 3-2 to sent a strong message to the regional teams.
Japan eventually proved their mettle by crowning the Asian champions later in the year.
The PHF held deliberations with Oltmans at Muscat who took over the assignment as national team’s head coach for second stint — March 1, 2018 to Sept 1, 2020. However, he left after the Asiad in disgust following tiff between the PHF and the government for not releasing Rs 200m funds allocated by previous government.
The PHf also hired Australian physical trainer Daniel Berry on the recommendation of Oltmans for some time who also quit with the Dutch official.
Pakistan stood seventh at the Commonwealth Games held in the Australian city of Gold Coast in April. The significant thing is that the greenshirts didn’t lose any game in the 10-nation event.
Drawn in pool B, Pakistan held Wales to a 1-1 draw in the opening fixture. In the next Pakistan shared points with India after being engaged in 2-2 stalemate.
The draw against India came after suffering four successive defeats 1-7 and 1-6 in the World Hockey League and 1-3 and 0-4 in the Dhaka Asia Cup in 2017.
In the third fixture, the greenshirts drew 2-2 with England and rounded-off the pool matches by playing 1-1 draw against Malaysia to end up fourth in the group.
Finally, Pakistan’s lone 3-1 victory came against minnows Canada in the playoff for the 7th-8th positions.
Though Pakistan finished seventh, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi doled out Rs 5.3m for staying unbeaten and to encourage the players for future committments.
1-Australia, 2-New Zealand, 3-England, 4-India, 5-Malaysia, 6-Scotland, 7-Pakistan, 8-Canada, 9-Wales, 10-South Africa.
Arch-rivals India thrashed Pakistan 4-0 in the opening match of the six-nation 37th Champions Trophy held in the Dutch city of Breda from June 23 to July 1.
Pakistan got a 2-1 drubbing from Australia in the next tie before whitewashed by the hosts Holland 4-0. Pakistan managed to sent Argentina packing 4-1 before losing to Belgium 2-4.
Belgium defeated Pakistan 2-1 on shoorout after being tied 2-2 in regulation time of playoff for the last two positions.
Introduced by Pakistan in 1978, it served as the last event at the behest of the FIH and Pakistan was allowed special permission to compete.
1-Australia, 2-India, 3-Holland, 4-argentina, 5-Belgium, 6-Pakistan
Japan’s meteoric rise was visible when it stamped its authority by getting the better of fighting Malaysia 3-1 on penalty shootout after being tied six-all in regulartion time to annex maiden Asian Games title at Jakarta in Aug-Sept.
India ended up with a bronze following 2-1 victory over Pakistan in the playoff. This is the second time after 2002 Busan Asian Games that Pakistan’s finished fourth at the Asiad hockey.
Pakistan topped pool B winning all five matches. They opened their campaign while inflicting 10-0 defeat on Thailand. The greenshirts defeated Oman by the identical 10-0 margin. Pakistan pump in 16 goals against Kazakhstan in the third fixture. They routed Malaysia 4-1 before outplaying Bangladesh 5-0 in the last league tie.
Eventual champions Japan halted Pakistan dream run with a solitary goal victory in the semi-final while India conjured up 2-1 victory over the greenshirts to deny them even the bronze.
Throughout the year and before, the PHF hierarchy as well as the team management looked over confident citing Asian Games gold as the main target in order to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was defeated.
Final positions: 1-Japan, 2-Malaysia, 3-India, 4-Pakistan, 5-South Korea, 6-Bangladesh, 7-Oman, 8-Sri Lanka, 9-Thailand, 10-Indonesia, 11-Kazakhstan, 12-Hong Kong.
Asian Champions Trophy:
Arch rivals Pakistan and India were declared joint winners after the match was abandoned due to heavy rain.
Pakistan whipped South Korea 3-1 to start the six-team competition on winning note at Muscat. However, in the next fixture, the greenshirts were humbled by India 3-1 that followed altercation between Hasan Sardar and Mohammad Saqlain. The latter was called back by the PHF and relieved of his job.
Pakistan thrashed Oman 8-1 and were held 1-1 by Japan. Pakistan gets the better of Malaysia by solitary goal in last league match.
Pakistan fought courageously to beat Malaysia again 3-1 on shootout after being tied 4-4 in the semi-final. India carved out 3-2 victory over Japan in the other semi-final to set a title clash with Pakistan.
Final positions: 1-India and Pakistan, 3-Malaysia, 4-Japan, 5-South Korea, 6-Oman.
Four-time former champions Pakistan, who failed to qualify for the last World Cup held at The Hague in 2014, returned winless from Bhubaneswar World Cup and ended up with a humiliating 12th slot in 16-nation event which is their lowest finish in the events history. Previously ranked 13th, the greenshirts entered the Bhumaneswar contest thanks to FIH for raising the number of teams from 12 to 16 for first time ever.
Pakistan lost their pool D opener by solitary goal to Germany before being held 1-1 by Malaysia. Pakistan received 5-1 thrashing from Holland in their last group tie.
Pakistan was blanked 5-0 by eventual champions Belgium in the second round to make exit.
Belgium, meanwhile, clinched their maiden hockey World Cup by getting the better of Holland 3-2 on penalty shootout after both teams remained goalless in regulation time.
The bronze went to Australia who thumped England 8-1 in the playoff for the 3rd-4th positions.
1-Belgium, 2-Holland, 3-Australia, 4-England, 5-Germany, 6-India, 7-Argentina, 8-France, 9-New Zealand, 10-China, 11-Canada, 12-Pakistan, 13-Spain, 14-Ireland, 15-Malaysia, 16-South Africa.
At the domestic front, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) carved out 2-1 victory over Wapda in the final to win the 64th National Hockey Championship at Sukkur on Jan 1. The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) blanked Navy 3-0 to grab bronze.
Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hockey Association Zahir Shah kept Khokhar and Shahbaz on their toes levelling serious allegations of misappropriation of Rs 500m doled out by the government and alleged that no audit was carried out. He also filed a suit against the PHF in the Peshawar High Court.
The PHF appointed Olympians Hasan Sardar and Islahuddin as head coach/manager and chief selector up to World Cup besides Saqlain and Rehan Butt as coaches.
Also in January, the PHF inducted six Pakistan greats in Hall of Fame besides equal number of foreigners without any criteria and doing injustice particularly, to living legends retired Brig Abdul Hamid ‘Hamidi’ and Abdul Waheed Khan, both the 1960 Rome Olympics gold medallists, among others.
The recepients of Hall of Fame mementos and cash awards of Rs0.5m apiece includes Islahuddin, Hasan Sardar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Akhtar Rasool, Samiullah and Shahnaz Sheikh (Pakistan) Paul Litjens, Floris Jan Bovelander and Rob Lathouwers (Netherlands), Christian Blunk (Germany), Juan Escarre (Spain) and Don Prior (Australia).
Pakistan played host to World XI that comprised couple of foreign players from six nations — Holland, Australia, Germany, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain — aimed at reviving international hockey in the country.
The visitors played two matches against Pakistan juniors winning 5-1 at Karachi and playing 3-3 at Lahore.
In May the incumbent PHF president and secretary were re-elected for four-year term in the elections that was termed ‘illegal’ by quite a large number of bonafide organisers and noted former players from Karachi to Peshawar.
This can be gauged from the fact four districts instead of six were allowed in the inter-club scrutiny of the Karachi Hockey Association (KHA) elections to accommodate blue-eyed people at the epense of genuine group.
Television channels reported foul play in rural Sindh besides the three other provinces and termed the polls ‘unfair’.
It is pertinent to mention that both Khokhar and Shahbaz visited the KHA Complex in Gulshan Iqbal on Feb two and acknowledged their hardwork.
In the aftermath of PHF’s interfearance, the KHA filed a suit in court of law and its relation with the games controlling body become sour.
Olympian goalkeeper Mansoor Ahmed died of heart ailment at a local hospital in Karachi on May 12.. He was 50.
Begum Perveen Atif, one of the founders of women’s hockey in Pakistan and wife of the ex-PHF secretary late retired Brig M. H. Atif, died on Nov 23.
It is the need of the hour that those found responsible of Pakistan hockey team’s pathetic performances over the last three years should be taken to task and banned from holding any office in future.
One has failed to understand the inordinate delay in appointing a new set-up of the PHF. People with clean record and a vision to lift the game should be given the task immediately to clear the gloom.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2019