"We have signed a formal agreement with him according to which he will work with the national team till 2012." -File Photo

LAHORE: Categorically dispelling the impression that coach Michel van den Heuvel is thinking to quit the job, Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Secretary Asif Bajwa said on Thursday the Dutch, according to an agreement, would continue to serve as national coach until the 2012 Olympics.

“Heuvel is in constant contact with me and, according to the agreement, he will continue till the 2012 London Olympics,” Bajwa told Dawn.

“We have signed a formal agreement with him according to which he will work with the national team till 2012.

“Unfortunately, he could not come to Pakistan to join us in the Asian Games victory celebrations because he had already planned to return to his homeland directly from China to see his family,” Bajwa added.

“Heuvel has been asking me about the victory celebrations as the nation and government gave great reception to the national squad on their much-needed win in Guangzhou,” he stated.

He acknowledged that induction of the Dutch coach had made a big difference in the team’s showing, hoping more training under him would turn the national squad into a formidable outfit able to challenge the best in business.

To a question, Bajwa also declared that the federation had no plans to say good bye to any senior player from the Asian Games winning squad, on the basis of age, as it will follow the already set criterion for selection — performance and physical fitness.

“From the very beginning the PHF had decided to utilise the services of every player until and unless he is fit and performing. And the players’ show in the Guangzhou Asian Games is enough to decide who is fit and performing,” he remarked.

However, when asked if the ageing senior players would be able to maintain the same physical fitness and performance level till the London Olympics, the secretary said a fit player could play for much long time.

“At the time of selection, the PHF wants a player to be fit, and it is bound to watch his past and current performances. And this policy of criterion for selection will continue,” he insisted.

Various senior players who were the part of the Asian Games party, which Pakistan earned after 20 years, like Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt, Salman Akbar, Zeeshan Ashraf and Waseem Ahmed, were at the brink of retirement before the Guangzhou Games. But now after claiming the gold medal they changed their mind.

Bajwa further said the memorable success in Asiad helped Pakistan confirm a place in the 2012 Olympics, adding the PHF now had time to build a strong team for London.

While admitting that European teams like the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and England besides Olympic champions Australia enjoyed great place in world hockey currently, the PHF official said Pakistan had in the past given these sides very tough time.

Bajwa was adamant that Pakistan still had the talent to test toughest of opponents in the coming international competitions.

He said the PHF was planning to hold short-period training camps in patches as a long-term measure for the junior players of the national team, while giving rest to the seniors.

“Since the next Azlan Shah Cup [in May] will be the first assignment of the national team, Olympian Khawaja Junaid may be asked to hold short-duration camps for the juniors on long-term basis. This will hone the players’ skills further besides removing their weaknesses,” he said.

Our Sports Reporter from Islamabad adds:

The PHF secretary said Heuvel’s recent statement over Pakistan job was taken erroneously.

“I have talked to Heuvel and he clarified that his statement was taken in wrong context,” asserted Bajwa. “I can assure the nation that the Dutch coach is here and rumours should rest after my statement.”

Bajwa added that Heuvel would remain coach, however, he just wanted to consult his family.

“In Heuvel’s opinion continuing for two years with the national team is a bit longer span and for such a lengthy stint his family’s opinion is must,” said Bajwa.

Heuvel, in his recent communication with Dawn, had said that he would consult his family before continuing with Pakistan squad.

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