LAHORE: In a bid to revive the flagging fortunes of the national hockey team, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has turned to Dutch coach Siegfried Aikman.
Aikman was unveiled as the team’s new head coach on Thursday, a day before its departure for Bangladesh to take part in the Asian Champions Trophy.
The head coach at the Asian Champions Trophy, though, would be Khawaja Junaid while Aikman will travel as part of the team management. Aikman will take full charge following the Asian Champions Trophy, which begins Dec 14.
“Aikman will be coach the team for the next five years, till the 2026 FIH World Cup,” PHF secretary Asif Bajwa said at a news conference, flanked by both Aikman and Junaid.
Khawaja Junaid to remain coach for Asian Champions Trophy
Aikman, who has Indian-Surinamese roots, was previously coach of the Japanese team, taking them to the Asian Games gold medal in 2018 before leaving following this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“With Aikman’s appointment, the PHF has filled all its bases to bring Pakistan back to the top table of world hockey,” Bajwa said, with the PHF having also appointed former Olympian Ahmed Alam as the team’s goalkeeping coach.
Aikman informed that he had met with the national team players on the last day of the training camp on Thursday.
“The boys have the potential but it’s about harnessing that in the right way,” Aikman said. “We will move ahead in future through short and long term plans to improve Pakistan hockey and bridge the gap between Pakistan and the top teams in the world.”
Aikman, who acted as a consultant for the Pakistan team at the recently-concluded FIH Junior World Cup in India where the team finished 11th, said his main focus would be to improve players’ fitness levels.
“We also need to make the boys mentally strong and work on improving their technique,” he added.
Junaid said that he welcomed Aikman as head coach and they would “work as one team” at the Asian Champions Trophy.
A reunion with Japan comes quickly for Aikman with Pakistan facing his former side in their opener on Dec 14. Pakistan will then face Malaysia on Dec 15, two days before their clash with arch-rivals India. Pakistan will face South Korea on Dec 18 and will finish their round-robin campaign against hosts Bangladesh the following day.
The final is set for Dec 22.
“I can’t predict what will happen at the Asian Champions Trophy but we will work hard to give our best,” Aikman said.
Pakistan were declared joint-winners with India in the last edition of the Asian Champions Trophy in Oman in 2018 after the final could not be played due to a thunderstorm.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2021