No room for hockey

Published August 13, 2022

THERE have been accusations and clarifications as the blame game rumbles on. Yet despite workers of the PTI defending the party’s move to rip off the AstroTurf at Lahore’s National Hockey Stadium for its public rally on Saturday, there is no justification for it — especially when they claim that the new turf will only come in December. It means that for almost six months, the National Stadium will be without a pitch, adding to the travails of the national game which has been in consistent decline. There has also been no reaction whatsoever from the Pakistan Hockey Federation, which is mired in its own institutional crisis — a conflict with the Pakistan Sports Board for its failure to hold elections that were due in May. PHF president retired Brig Khalid Sajjad Khokhar continues to head the federation, threatening the PSB with potential backlash from FIH — the game’s world governing body — if it pushes ahead with holding elections under a four-member committee it appointed and which included the PHF chief himself. Some former players have raised their voice against the move but as the national team’s fortunes have dwindled, hockey has slipped from a national obsession to a forgotten pastime.

Just this month, the team needed a last-gasp goal to finish a lowly seventh at the Commonwealth Games. Lack of infrastructure has been a key component of Pakistan hockey’s decline and the players have now been robbed of another facility until the new turf arrives. The party defended its move by saying that the turf had been in dismal condition and change was overdue, yet its leaders have also claimed that the removed AstroTurf will now be laid in Sargodha. The ‘logic’ behind all this is mind-boggling. The move to strip the National Stadium of its turf came on the very day the Punjab sports minister announced that a modern stadium will be built in Mian Channu, the hometown of Commonwealth Games javelin gold medallist Arshad Nadeem. The question is this: does doing one right thing erase a wrong decision?

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2022

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