Pakistan hockey saw another disappointed year. Pakistan hockey team failed to win a single event on international or Asian basis. Some people blame the federation and others blame the players for this disappointing performance. The players alone cannot be blamed for this poor performance, given the fact that there were not enough funds available to pay their allowances, hotel accommodation and fare. They need nutrition, training and enough funds for sustenance.
There is very little money, celebrity status and commercial viability left in hockey. The hockey players no more get jobs in attractive departments. In the past, PIA, Pakistan customs, banks and other government departments was used to offer attractive jobs to talented players. The players were used to play domestic hockey competitions. Now the talented players looked for league or club hockey in different countries to earn some money to feed their families.
Pakistan hockey lacks the facilities, encouragement, competitiveness and quality coaches to produce the quality players. Most of the players were used to come from Gojra, Gujranwala, Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad. These centers have stopped producing world class players. Gojra, a tiny city near Faisalabad was used to produce half of Pakistani hockey team.
Two local coaches produce many quality players from local schools. Their death ended the talent hunt at local players. Both the coaches had the passion for the hockey and developed many youngsters into superstars of Pakistani hockey.
Such people no more exist. PHF needs to trained qualified coaches at district level to provide basic skills and physical fitness to the young talented hockey players at school level. The club hockey has almost died over the years. The revival of club hockey is inevitable to promote hockey in the country.
PHF should provide free hockey sticks, uniforms and other necessary materials to promote hockey in the schools. This game has become expensive. Without local patronage and a long term plan from hockey authorities, this national sport will continue to disappear at gross root level.
The PHF needs to be reformed. The PHF’s house is not in order. The officials are not taking pain to search for talent. Even the attention is not being paid to train the available talent. The PHF failed to induct the most promising junior players in the national side on time to groom them.
The dilemma was that PHF was not in a position to induct all junior players in the national senior hockey team. Such a step could have been taken two years ago when Pakistan under-17 team won the Australian domestic hockey event. But at that time it was thought that the juniors still required time to mature. They had not got the opportunity to play Junior World Cup. It was not possible to induct them in the senior team for the preparation of seniors World Cup.
So now if only a few school kids were playing hockey, from where did one expect new talent to emerge? It didn’t. It is really painful that the country of 220 million people cannot produce 11 quality players who can compete with best teams in the world. Whatever little that did was either not suited to quickly adopt the rapidly changing ways and pace of the game; or wasn’t given the kind of incentives to keep it interested in the game as a profession and not just a low-paying hobby or even national duty.
Nobody in government has political will to order an audit about fate of over Rs1 billion given to PHF. As long as sports organizations continue to be doled out to cronies, there is no hope for improvement. PHF needs to be totally reorganized and restructured with no space for those who have been involved in its debacle. Those responsible for financial pilferage must be given exemplary punishment for they have deprived this country and sport lovers of hope, happiness and good news.
The Prime Minister Imran khan should take notice of sorry state of the national sport. He himself is a sportsman and knows problems of this sport. He must make it one of his priorities to revive the game.
The hockey federation has announced an inquiry into poor performance of the hockey team in the world cup. Inquiries are only bound to discover what most hockey fans already are well aware of i.e. ever since the early 1990s, Pakistan’s national sport has not been given the kind of attention, resources and respect by those who matter.
The fame of hockey in Pakistan sky-rocketed and western hockey observers intriguingly noticed how Pakistani (and Indian) players had (from the late 1950s onwards) introduced a dexterous skill that soon became to be known as ‘dribbling.’ The Asian style of hockey dominated the world for many decades. Pakistani and Indian players displayed their superb skills and class around the world. The attacking hockey of Pakistani players was a treat to watch.
But, despite the fact that Pakistan had been the number one side in international hockey since 1978, the players were still not receiving even half of what the country’s cricketers were making.
Pakistan won the last major international event in 1994 when it won the hockey world cup in Australia. This was the last team which had the legends and superstars like Shahbaz senior, Tahir Zaman, Sohail Abbas and others.
Hockey players need media attention, resources, sponsorships and a national hockey league of international standards to produce quality players.
A sport in which so much pride and passion was once invested and which became the honored expression of a resilient nation, has sadly been allowed to just wither away.
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17 November, 2019