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'Winning bronze first step towards becoming strong side'

December 11, 2012

hockey, pakistan hockey, champions trophy, champions trophy 2012
Pakistan hockey team celebrate with their medals. -Photo by AFP

LAHORE: Pakistan’s bronze medal at the recently-concluded Champions Trophy is green-shirts’ first step towards becoming a formidable side in the world hockey as well as at the Asian circuit.

These views were expressed by Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president Qasim Zia who  was highly optimistic about Pakistan’s chances in the upcoming Asian Champions Trophy in Qatar this month.

“Coming at the podium after eight years in the Champions Trophy can work as a morale booster for our young team and now the players must have gained confidence which they require to win international title,” Qasim told Dawn on Tuesday.

Pakistan edged out arch-rivals India 3-2 in the third position match, improving their world ranking by jumping from eighth to fifth place after winning bronze in Melbourne last Sunday.

The last time Pakistan clinched a medal at the Champions Trophy was in 2004 when they overcame India in Lahore. Pakistan, though, have a rich history in the tournament, winning the first two editions of the world’s toughest hockey tournament.

The PHF president claimed that the Pakistan team is currently No1 in Asia, saying: “We have defeated South Korea in the London Games 2012 to earn seventh place and now India in the third place match. So we are currently the Asian No 1.

“Now, our next immediate target is the Asian Champions Trophy to uphold supremacy in Asia,” added Qasim.

He also admitted that the team had some weaknesses which should be removed forthwith.

“Although our defence proved to be a strong one, our forwards have several problems. Moreover, the players are looking more physically fit, but they have to improve their mental fitness as they should go for any match with a winning mind,” he commented.

He said the PHF would sit with the team management after the Asian Champions Trophy to discuss future plan in order to raise a formidable team for the 2014 World Cup.

“The PHF will also arrange Pakistan team matches against world best teams once the team management inform us about its plans,” he stated.

When asked in the past European teams remained reluctant to give a good number of matches to Pakistan, the PHF president said that during his stay in Melbourne he held discussion with officials of Holland and Australia who expressed willingness to play against Pakistan.

To a question whether PHF doors were still opened for former Olympians to join the federation’s campaign to raise a strong team in the lead-up to the World Cup, Qasim said all ex-Olympians would be welcomed.

“Two former Olympians — Akhtar Rasool and Hanif Khan — are part of the team management. Therefore, other ex-Olympians should not feel any hesitation in sitting with them for betterment of the national team,” said the PHF president.

To a question, he said considering performance of the team in the Champions Trophy, experience of dissolving the national selection committee was a good one.

Stating that when he took over as PHF president some four years back he had set the Asia Cup and 2014 World Cup as his major targets, Qasim said: “With the blessing of God, Pakistan won the last Asia Cup and now our focus is on the world cup and the current performance of the team is an indicator that we are on right track.”

Also, Qasim admitted that the national junior team was not producing any impressive performance at international level, but he said that four players of the national team have been picked up from the junior team.