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Hockey: Turf war

April 15, 2012

With the London Olympics just around the corner, a blue turf—on which hockey will be played at the Olympics—becomes an essential for players to practice on. Credit should be given to the Punjab Sports Board for arranging to lay the blue turf in place of green at the Lahore National Hockey Stadium by next month. Reports say that the blue turf at the Olympics would be the fastest hockey pitch and the teams of 12 participating countries would need the extraordinary fitness to face the challenges. The International Hockey Federation had already informed its affiliated units about this, and advised its member countries to laying the new turf.

The Government of Punjab had already allocated Rs 30 million for the turf about a year ago, but there had been a delay in implementation. Matters became controversial when Pakistan Hockey Federation’s secretary Asif Bajwa and team manager and chief coach Akhtar Rasool criticised the Punjab board for its delaying tactics with just four months left for the Olympic, which commence on July 27 this year. The relations got strained and the director, Punjab board, General Usman Anwar reacted rather unwisely and the electricity supply of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) offices was cut down. The next day, the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker Rana Mashhood announced at a media conference that the blue astro-turf would be laid by May 15.

Nevertheless, despite such an unnecessary controversy, the Punjab Sports Board was the first of other three sports boards of Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan to ensure the laying of blue pitch more than two months ahead of the coming London Olympic. There’s still no clue as to when the blue turf would be laid at the Karachi’s Hockey Club where the first green astro-turf was laid in 1980.

While waiting for the Olympics, Pakistan would be participating in the seven-nation 31st Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, from May 24. According to media reports the matches will be played on the blue turf and participating nations including Pakistan, Argentina, New Zealand, India, South Korea, Great Britain and host Malaysia. This means that the Pakistan team will have almost a week’s training at the newly laid blue turf if it is installed by May 15. Let’s keep fingers crossed and hope that the turf would be laid by then.

Pakistan will also be hosting a three-nation tournament at Lahore’s National Hockey Stadium this month and India has confirmed its participation along with Malaysia. India’s participation would give a great boost to hockey in both the countries. Strict security arrangements have been planned for the tournament. However, doubts and apprehensions will continue to surface regarding India’s participation until the team finally comes to Lahore. Pakistan and India, both former Olympic gold medallists, have qualified for the London games and India has already announced its squad for three-nation tournament.