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The Asian challenge

Will Pakistan manage to do well at the Asian Games to be hosted by Incheon (South Korea) from September 19 to October 4, 2014?

The Asian challenge

After a disappointing performance at the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Pakistan must be hoping for a better show at this year’s Asian Games to be held in Incheon (South Korea) from September 19 to October 4, 2014.

In Glasgow, Pakistan failed to win a single gold medal and struggled to reach a four-medal haul that included three silvers and one bronze medal.

The Pakistanis went to the Scottish city with little preparations which was why their below-par showing did not come as much of a surprise. In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, Pakistan’s sports officialdom was engaged in a bitter tussle for power and that contributed greatly towards the national contingent’s poor performance in Glasgow.

History cou­ld repeat itself for the Pakistanis in Incheon as there have been little or no positive developments in the lead up to the Asian Games. Most of the athletes are still lamenting the fact that they will compete in the regional extravaganza with little preparations.

But the good news is that the national hockey team will be competing in the Asian Games. Pakistan were unable to take part in the hockey event of the Commonwealth Games because of infighting in the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). However, they managed to secure a berth in the Asian Games where Pakistan’s hockey team will be defending its crown.

It was after a long gap of 20 years that Pakistan finally regained the Asian Games title by blanking Malaysia 2-0 in the final of the 2010 edition in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

Short corner ace Sohail Abbas and Rehan Butt scored the goals for Pakistan in the final helping the Greenshirts to win their first major title since the 1994 World Cup in Sydney. It was Pakistan’s eighth Asiad hockey gold, ending a drought that stretched back to the Beijing Asiad in 1990.

It was a welcome win for Pakistan who began 2010 on a highly disappointing note when they took the wooden spoon in the World Cup in New Delhi. By winning the Asian Games final, Pakistan also confirmed their berth at the 2012 London Olympics.

This time, Pakistan will be looking for an automatic berth for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. If they retain the Asian Games gold in Incheon, Pakistan will directly make the cut for Rio 2016 and will not have to take part in the tough Olympic Qualifiers. Pakistan certainly know the importance of securing a direct berth in a major event like the Olympics, having missed out on World Cup 2014 in Holland before of their failure to win the Asia Cup.

ASIAN GAMES

The Asian Games will provide Shahnaz Sheikh his first test as Pakistan’s new head coach. The former Olympian was given the charge of the national team earlier this year with the hope that he would put it back on the right track. Shahnaz remains hopeful that his charges will give their best in the Asiad but it’s quite clear that defending its title won’t be easy for the under-achieving national team.

Pakistan biggest rivals would be hosts South Korea and arch-rivals India. Other contenders would be last edition’s finalists Malaysia, China and Japan.

The Indians are confident of regaining the crown after managing to reach the final of the Commonwealth Games earlier this month. Sardar Singh’s Indian team surprised the higher ranked New Zealanders en route to the final where it was hammered 4-0 by Australia.

“Our next target is winning the gold at the upcoming Asian Games for which the boys are going into the tournament confident,” India captain Sardar Singh said in a recent interview. “The Commonwealth Games brought to the forefront many positives along with some areas that needs urgent attention to better ourselves. We will work towards the loopholes and put forward a better team for the forthcoming Asian Games.”

Apart from hockey, Pakistan won two more gold medals through their women’s cricket team and men’s squash team. Pakistan Women created history by winning the inaugural Asian Games tournament. It is hoped that Pakistan will once again excel in all three of its major sports – hockey, cricket and squash – besides doing well in other disciplines like boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and judo.

Bilal Hussain

Bilal Hussain
The author may be contacted at [email protected]

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