Pakistani hockey team once again showed poor performance in a mega event. Pakistani team ousted from the hockey world cup in a pre-quarter final match.Unfortunately Pakistan had been placed in the toughest pool of the event. The results were not unexpected. But they should at least have beaten Malaysia. Pakistan hockey team failed to won a single match in the world cup in India. Pakistani team returned home without a win.
India showed the door in the quarter final match. Both giants of Asian hockey failed to make it to the seminal finals of hockey world. Both Pakistan and India was the most dominated force in the world hockey for more than three decades.
The worst performance of Pakistan in the World Cup 2018 was not shocking for those who know the issues of Pakistan hockey. The PHF had no option other than preparing and training the current lot of players for the World Cup. The best available players in the country were included in the team, eight of them having loads of experience in international and professional league hockey.
But they looked exhausted during the World Cup. Many of them lacked motivation. They had twice refused to play for Pakistan until their salaries were paid. Many players want to play for the country only to be noticed by clubs in professional hockey leagues around the world. The leagues suck all their energy and leave them tired.
Their fitness level was at the lowest. They looked exhausted in the third and the fourth quarters of every match. Even four defenders were not able to stop one attacker of the rival team. Goalkeeper Imran Butt conceded 10 goals in the last two matches. Not a single goal was scored on any penalty corner by Aleem Bilal or Mubashir.
It was the either Pakistan or India who won most world cups and Olympic gold medals from 1950s to 1980s. But it is heartening to see such a pathetic state of hockey in Pakistan. Hockey is still the national game of Pakistan. But it was a most neglected sport in the country. Pakistan was once the powerhouse of hockey and it produced world class players. Pakistan produced so many superstars and legend players that it is difficult to remember all of them. They were household names in the country.
After remaining at top of the hockey world for more than three decades, it is lamentable that a country who won Olympic gold thrice, World Cup four times, Asia Cup thrice, Asian Games gold record eight times, Asian Champions Trophy gold twice, FIH Champions Trophy gold thrice and remained unbeatable at regional level for many years are now a lowly team. Due to country’s obsession with cricket these days, Pakistan hockey has been relegated to the background due to the Pakistan government’s indifferent attitude towards the national sport.
Hardly anybody knows the names of the present eleven of Pakistani hockey. The gradual fall that begun in the late 1990s never stopped. The down fall continued since 1990s. No serious effort was ever made to makehockey as a popular support as it was in the 1950s, 60s, 70 and 1980s.
The hockey lost its commercial value against cricket. The cricket becomes the most popular support in the country because of its commercial viability. 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 hockey had reached dizzying heights, winning two World Cups, two Champions Trophy titles and one Olympic gold medal within a span of just six years (1978-84).
The time is crucial for Pakistan hockey. The professional league is the ideal opportunity to uplift the standard of Pakistan hockey. But it would be successful when maximum number of foreign players comes here to play.
Pakistan hockey federation should encouraged top public schools and private schools to start hockey competitions at school levels. The real challenge is to reintroduce the hockey at gross root level. The school hockey has long gone. The serious efforts need to be made to return to the past glory. Pakistan Hockey cannot recover from present crisis and down fall without producing the world class players.
Pakistan hockey’s slump is not quite as dramatic or sudden as it now seems to be. It’s been a slow and painful decline that began when Pakistan not only lost the World Cup title in the 1986 World Cup in England, but also came 11th in the 12-team-event.
Yet, it managed to bounce back a bit in the 1990s but by then the game was already vanishing from schools and colleges and it failed to get the kind of media and corporate attention that cricket had begun to attract.
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.
Pakistan hockey’s slow fall now seems complete. The game could just fade away (and it has), but the problem is, it is still officially Pakistan’s national sport.
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17 November, 2019