The three-nation hockey tournament in Oman was an eye opener for PHF and other hockey enthusiasts. It showed how low our hockey standard has gone. We can’t compete even at the Asian-level. How will we compete in the Commonwealth Games in Australia next month, Champions Trophy in Holland in June, Asian Games and then the World Cup in India!
There has been, however, one positive development. The PHF finally realised that there was no option but to hire the services of foreign coaches. Hence, the appointment of South African goalkeeping coach Erasmus Pieterse and Holland’s Roelant Oltmans for senior hockey team till the World Cup.
The wrong polices of previous PHF managements, the subsequent isolation of Pakistan and missing the Junior World Cup in 2016 have caused the decline of Pakistan in world hockey. Let’s see what magic Roelant Oltmans does. Pakistan should at least compete with motivation, courage and stand up in front of rival teams.
Pakistan team is to feature in the toughest tournaments soon. Pakistan is facing a serious crisis in goalkeeping as well as in defence. They conceded four goals against minnows Oman in the three-nation hockey tournament. The goalkeepers and the defenders proved a wall of sand in two consecutive matches as Pakistan conceded seven goals — three in the final against Japan.
It was good that when Pakistan were playing so poorly, PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed, chairman selection committee Islahuddin Siddiqui, and newly appointed coach Roelant Oltmans were all present in Oman and saw all the shortcoming and weaknesses of the players.
As far as poor goalkeeping is concerned, Pakistan is paying the price of excluding Salman Akbar and Nasir at the same time. They were both competent and should not have been dismissed in that manner.
The selection committee now has no choice but to rely on Imran Butt and Amjad Ali. It is unfortunate that we don’t have one world class goalkeeper right now who could save Pakistan.
Chairman Islahuddin and manager Hassan Sardar have both admitted that the performance of the players was disappointing.
At Commonwealth Games and Champions Trophy, all teams will be better than Japan. But we should take these events as an opportunity to learn and improve our standard of hockey because it will work out in Asian Games.
The experiences of rigorous and modern-day hockey in both events will provide matchless experience to Pakistani players of which they have been deprived for so long. That rusted their skills. When they returned to international competitions, they had lost the confidence.
Pakistan will have to face archrivals India, England, Malaysia and Wales in Commonwealth Games. And Champions Trophy is the toughest hockey event in the world as six top-ranked teams will compete in Holland.
PHF will have to draw a line: whoever plays for Pakistan or is included in the training camp must not participate in the professional leagues if those clash with national duty. Some experienced players often prefer professional leagues over playing for Pakistan. Even if they do play for the country, they have little energy left and they instead become a burden on the team.
PHF will have to be careful about the fitness level of the players. We don’t have many choices. If a player gets injured, it is hard to find replacement soon. What will happen if any player gets injured in a professional league!
Meanwhile, PHF confirmed that they would provide support to World Cup-winning goalkeeper Mansoor Ahmed who is critically ill. The PHF president Brig (rtd) Khalid Khokhar and secretary Shahbaz Ahmed are already in touch with Mansoor. They have said that Ahmed is Pakistan’s pride and hero and would be provided all possible help in his treatment.