Asian Games: Pakistan hockey's one chance at redemption
12 September, 2014
KARACHI: The forthcoming Asian Games, starting September 19 in Korea, is a golden chance for the Pakistan hockey team to redeem itself after a poor run last year booted them out of the World Cup for the first time in history.
The eight-time gold medallists, who introduced the continental event more than four decades ago, fell from grace after failing to attain a position among the top three teams in last year's Champions League, which served as a qualifier for the World Cup.
Thereafter, the greenshirts had two chances to book their berth at the mega event; once in the Asia Cup and again in the World Hockey League. Unfortunately, they were unable to perform well in either, resulting in an embarrassing sit-out at an event that they had won four times.
A major management overhaul was witnessed after the debacle, with Akhtar Rasool assuming the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president's mantle and Olympians Islahuddin and Shahnaz Shaikh being appointed chief selector and head coach respectively.
However, under their tenure, the national team missed a chance to take part in the Commonwealth Games due to the ongoing tussle between the parallel Pakistan Olympic Association bodies.
Talking to Our Sources, PHF Secretary Rana Mujahid said, "Despite facing an acute shortage of funds, we are taking every possible step to help the team.
"We are fully aware of the greenshirts' recent record, but things will improve in due course of time."
Pakistan have not played any international event for the past 10 months. Head coach Sheikh had provided the PHF a training plan for giving the team international exposure, but the federation failed to arrange any tour.
More recently, Shahnaz had requested the officials to ensure the hockey team's departure by September 10, as the players have been short on match practice on foreign turf and were prepared to play practice games with some international teams before the actual event.
However, the PHF once again failed to oblige the coach.
"The team has trained for four-and-a-half months," said Sheikh. "I'm optimistic Pakistan will defend its title; hockey has always given happiness to the nation in its tough times."
Sheikh accompanied the squad to Lahore from Islamabad for their departure to Bangkok late Thursday.
"The team will miss some of the planned practice matches with Korea and Japan, but Bangladesh have confirmed their willingness to play against Pakistan on September 18," he concluded.