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Analysis: Poor state of hockey affairs remain unaddressed

Updated February 18, 2019

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Expectations are fueled that the country’s ailing sports scene will finally go through a revamp. — AFP/File
Expectations are fueled that the country’s ailing sports scene will finally go through a revamp. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The election of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in July last year brought with it hope of positive change.

A former national cricket captain being at the helm also fueled expectations that the country’s ailing sports scene will finally go through a revamp.

Hockey, Pakistan’s national game, was also expected to get the attention it deserved due to glorious past of the national side in the sport.

However, the new government has not proven itself much different from their predecessors and rivals Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).

The national hockey side had to withdraw from participation in the FIH Pro Hockey League — an opportunity to win direct qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — citing financial constraints in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF).

PM Khan, who is also the patron of the PHF, however, took no notice after the team’s withdrawal and the national hockey body’s financial and managerial issues were not addressed readily.

Khan and the governments silence over the matter has cast doubt over their intent to revive the national game from a state of doldrums.

During the PML-N tenure, in 2015, the previous federation led by Akhtar Rasool stepped down, apparently because of intervention of the government. Rasool was later replaced by Khalid Sajjad Khokhar, who is a close relative of PML-N veteran Ahsan Iqbal.

It is alleged that Iqbal, who was then a federal minister, convinced the PML-N government to get rid of the Rasool-led federation, which was then facing allegations of mismanagement, corruption.

Rasool’s resignation was followed by Khokhar’s election, a formality by the PHF congress. In May last year, Khokhar along with secretary Shahbaz Ahmed Senior were re-elected unopposed.

The election did not bring much change and the Green Shirts continued their poor form facing humiliating defeats in various tournaments. A defeat against Japan and a draw against Oman were the highlights of the on-going poor run.

The national junior side also faced shameful defeats in Canada last year, where it conceded over 20 goals while scoring only one.

The national team also failed to make a mark in last year’s World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy and the Asia Cup..

Pakistan, a country, which boasts three Olympic gold medals, four World Cups, three Asia Cup titles, eight Asian Games gold medals along with several other honours, seeks special attention from the federal government.

“There is a need to look into the affairs of PHF,” a Pakistan Sports Board official said.

“If the national team is yielding poor performances then action should be taken against the PHF officials and if there is any funding issue, then it is the responsibility of the government to help the federation.

“Keeping mum over the issue is great injustice with the national game.”

Several Olympians namely Manzoor Hussain Junior, Khalid Bashir, Rasheed Junior and Khawaja Junaid have raised their voice against the incumbent PHF and have requested the federal government to look into the matter.

Last year, after the national side’s disastrous show in the Asian Games, Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh also called for PM Khan’s intervention. Sheikh also requested the prime minister to carry out “complete postmortem” of the PHF.

No action was taken.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hockey Association president Zahir Shah has also called for complete audit of the PHF. He alleged the PHF did not present the true picture of it’s expenditure before the senate standing committee meeting recently.

Shah claimed the incumbent federation received over Rs500 million from the provincial and federal governments, while it also received huge amounts from sponsors and also collects rent against the Hockey Club Karachi.

Shah alleged the PHF accounts saw a transaction of over Rs800 million but the IPC committee was told that federation received only Rs542 million.

Shah also demanded a probe into the letters which the PHF has issued during the last four years for issuing visas of various countries.

Shahbaz and Khokhar, while talking to Dawn, said the federation has been making every effort to bring improvement in performance of the national team.

They said that they shared the required information with the committee and that the PHF is open for accountability.

“Besides routine audit, a special audit by auditor general of Pakistan was also conducted, which is near completion, so we are open, we did nothing wrong and take every possible step to bring improvement,” Khokhar told Dawn denying allegations of any wrongdoing during his tenure.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2019