Pakistan’s national game is rising again. After a very long period and despite the huge popularity of cricket, hockey has started getting attention. The Green-shirts are still ranked 14th — very poor for a country that has won multiple gold medals in Olympics and World Cups — but things have been improving gradually at home.
A major breakthrough has been achieved as 11 foreign goalkeepers are participating in the Nishan-e-Haider Nine-a-Side hockey tournament in Karachi. Seven of them are Australians and the others are from Argentina.
There have been few international sports competitions in the country for about a decade. In such a scenario, the arrival of 11 foreign players from countries very strong in hockey is encouraging to players and officials and the fans.
“Do not compare them (the current PHF management) with those who headed PHF at a time when Pakistan had the services of the greatest players, who won gold medals at Olympics and brought home World Cups,” said an old hockey lover. “They have had to build almost everything anew. They are working really hard,” he added.
The current PHF management is also arranging the visit of a World XI next month which will play three international matches in Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi.
The PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed told ‘The News on Sunday’ that the World XI would comprise globally-recognised players. “There will be players from Australia, Germany, Holland, England, and other hockey-playing countries,” he said.
The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) is making all efforts to sabotage Pakistan’s hockey. It created hurdles in Pakistan’s participation in those events which were hosted by India. It also pressurised other countries not to invite Pakistani hockey team.
But PHF through its brilliant diplomacy foiled all its moves and with the help of friendly nations chalked out a strategy to re-appear on the international scene.
All European countries are ready to help PHF by allowing their players to participate in the World XI visit, the sources said.
During the visit of the World XI, the PHF will give Hall of Fame awards to honour great world hockey players. Five of them will be foreign players and five Pakistanis. The PHF has already got the go-ahead from the FIH in this connection.
The players who have confirmed their visit to Pakistan in this respect include Australia’s Ric Charlesworth, Germany’s Christian Blunck, and Netherlands’ Floris Jan Bovelander.
The visit of the World XI is to be followed by Pakistan Hockey League (PHL).
When this article will be read Pakistan senior team will be going to Dhaka to participate in the Asia Cup, which is one of the major events before the Green-shirts appear in the World Cup 2018 in India.
Team’s head coach Farhat Khan has said that the management had done hard work and tried its best to improve the Pakistan team. It has worked on players’ physical fitness, mental toughness and hockey skills, he said. “The team is a combination of senior and junior players. It is a bunch of win-hungry players,” he claimed.
He said that players were being trained according to the needs of modern hockey and each player would have to play according to the need of the hour.
He said he expected the team to do well at Asia Cup. “Our hockey will soon come out of the darkness it has been in for so many years,” he added.
During the last two years or so, PHF has arranged jobs for more than 70 players. They are players who either represented Pakistan or attended the national level training camps.
PHF’s efforts have also led to the establishment of new domestic hockey teams and restoration of many teams that were closed during the past 15 to 20 years.