LAHORE: Pakistan head coach Roelant Oltmans hailed the “immense talent” in Pakistan players after seeing his charges go down 2-1 to India in the final of the Junior Asia Cup in Oman on Thursday.
Oltmans was appointed as consultant for the team ahead of the tournament before acting as head coach with Pakistan securing qualification for this year’s Junior World Cup in Malaysia by virtue of reaching the semi-finals at the continental tournament.
“There is immense talent in the junior players and though Pakistan lost the final, it was a close game and the team fought well and also displayed fine play in the second half of the game,” Oltmans said in a video message.
Pakistan, who had fallen 2-0 behind in the 19th minute, came close to leveling the match several times in the second half after Basharat Ali had pulled one back in the 38th.
“In the second half Pakistan could have scored more goals but the Indian team was also experienced,” added Oltmans.
Pakistan’s performance also drew praise from former Olympians Tauqir Dar and Khalid Bashir.
Tauqir said that the team showed good fitness levels and there was a need for the Pakistan Hockey Federation “to select the best players from the Junior side to train with the Seniors as the Asian Champions Trophy and the Asian Games are around the corner”.
Khalid, meanwhile, said that it was “a good omen that Pakistan have qualified for the Junior World Cup for the first time in eight years”.
The team will arrive in Pakistan on Saturday with PHF secretary Haider Hussain stating that Oltmans wouldn’t be accompanying the players on their return home.
“His [Oltmans] further role with the team will be discussed in due course,” he said, adding that the team’s performances had raised hopes for the revival of the game in the country.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2023