Updated Sep 03, 2018 10:28am

Shahnaz wants PM’s intervention to save Pakistan hockey

Kashif Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Citing country’s disastrous show in the just-concluded Asian Games hockey event, Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh has called for intervention from Prime Minister Imran Khan, whom the former requested to carry out “complete postmortem” of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) which completely failed to bring any worthwhile improvement to the national game during the last three years.

Former four-time World Cup winners Pakistan — once considered the world beaters in field hockey —were among the main contesting teams at the Asian Games hockey, but miserably failed to even win bronze at the continental gala staged in Indonesia. Losing 2-1 to arch-rivals India in the third-place playoff on Saturday was the last thing Pakistan wanted at Asiad from where Mohammad Rizwan Senior-led team returned empty-handed.

“It is a matter of great concern that Pakistan in recent past have been playing poorly against India, suffering defeat in five matches out of six with one draw during the period of our present hockey federation,” Shahnaz highlighted.

After failing to win the title at the Jakarta Asian Games, Pakistan have also lost the chance of getting direct entry into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A disgruntled Shahnaz urged the prime minister to look into the hockey affairs, otherwise, he said, there was a slim chance for Pakistan to even qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“The government during the last three years provided almost Rs500 million grant to the present PHF regime from the taxpayers’ money. But what has this [PHF] management produced? Our team could not win even a single mega event during its tenure. And I reckon the dismal situation warrants the prime minister’s intervention for bringing our hockey back on the right track,” Shahnaz said while talking to Dawn on Sunday.

He said Pakistan hockey, which has a rich haul of 55 medals – 23 gold, 17 silver and 15 bronze — under its belt in mega events such as Olympics, Asian Games, Asia Cup and World Cup, experienced a big blow in Jakarta where the national team could not even even reach the podium which he said explicitly signifies the efficiency of the team and the PHF management.

The Olympian, who helped Pakistan to win silver in 1972 and bronze in 1976 Olympics and several gold medals at the Asian Games, said the incumbent PHF management had fell well short of their target of revamping national team.

“What have they revamped? Rather, the national team’s performance graph has deteriorated further during the past three years,” he regretted.

“Now is the time for a complete postmortem of PHF’s performance and its finances. Because if the current situation persists, I think we will also fail to even qualify for the 2020 Olympics. And I am not expecting miracles in this year’s World Cup too,” he said.

Pakistan hockey could be promoted had the PHF adopted a correct strategy, Shahnaz underlined.

“For revamping hockey, there was a need to increase the pool of players by holding competitive domestic tournaments and by focusing on grass-roots. However, rather than focusing on these areas,

the PHF arranged unnecessary tours to Canada and Australia for junior teams.”

He further said that after Pakistan team’s extremely poor performance at the FIH Hockey World League, Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy and the Asia Cup where they stood third, the current PHF management kept on claiming that its “real target” is a medal in the Asian Games.

“Now, they have missed this target too,” he said, adding excessive changes in the team management was also a cause of the team’s decline.

“The team management was changed five times [during the present PHF set-up] and this proved a contributing factor in the team’s decline,” Shahnaz concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018

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