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Asif Bajwa promotion pleases Saqlain

May 19, 2006


ISLAMABAD, May 18: Captain Mohammad Saqlain on Thursday appreciated the decision of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) of giving coach Asif Bajwa sweeping powers.

"I have always felt that only one man should be responsible for the team instead of having a heavy management," Saqlain told reporters in Rawalpindi.

He denied that the players faced problems because of a reported rift between Asif and team manager Saeed Khan during the World Cup qualifying tournament in China. "This is not true, we were getting along well with both the coach and the manager all through."

Pakistan finished a poor fourth at the qualifiers barely managing to pick up a ticket to Germany for the actual tournament this September.

In the aftermath of the China event, the PHF sacked Saeed and assistant coach Rana Mujhaid and much to everyone's surprise elevated Asif as chief coach cum manager.

Saqlain termed the three-match ban slapped on him by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) as harsh but said he had no choice but to accept it.

The temperamental captain, who will now miss three matches of the Champions Trophy in Spain, had hit Australia Craig Victory with his stick during the Hamburg Masters in Germany.

Meanwhile, Askari Commercial Bank Limited will be the new shirt sponsors of the national team after inking a deal worth Rs 9 million with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Thursday.

The deal covers four tournaments starting with next month's Azlan Shah Tournament followed by the Champions Trophy in Spain, the Hamburg Masters and the World Cup in Germany.

Captain Mohammad Saqlain and star forward Rehan Butt wore the new shirts at a news conference with the bank logo displayed on the shirtfront, collar and sleeves.

The sponsorship signing ceremony held in Rawalpindi was attended among others by the secretary of PHF Musarratullah Khan, the Managing Director of Askari Welfare Trust (AWT) Lt. Gen (Retd) Zarar Azeem and the bank's president Mr. Shaharyar Ahmad.

Musarrat pointed out that except for the Hamburg Masters, the three other events were to be shown live on television in Pakistan.