Though Pakistan hockey is struggling at the international level, at home the national game is progressing well and gradually this beautiful and artistic game in which Pakistan has a golden history is rising once again. Pakistan has been Olympic champions thrice and world champions four times.
PHF organised the first National Under-16 School hockey Championship in Khairpur to utilise the synthetic turf newly laid there.
Inter-district hockey championship is being organised in all PHF units. Several other domestic tournaments have been included in the PHF’s domestic calendar, including national senior and junior hockey championships, which have been organised for the last two years.
No doubt Pakistan hockey team’s performance is below par. They are right now 13th in World Hockey, but the appointment of Holland’s most famous coach Roelant Oltmans as the head coach of the Green Shirts has halted the continuous downfall of Pakistan hockey team. They played well in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games, where they gave tough time to such teams as England, India, and Canada.
Pakistan did not lose any match in the event. They drew all their group matches and won a playoff.
Canada had defeated Pakistan 6-0 in World Hockey League, but in Commonwealth Games, the Green-shirts defeated them 3-1.
But at the same time, Pakistan juniors failed to qualify for the Youth Olympics in Thailand this month in a disgusting manner. The team coach was Muhammad Usman. It is a matter of concern for PHF. It must determine whether the failure was due to poor selection or faulty coaching.
It may be mentioned that this junior team did not consist of those junior boys who played against World Hockey XI last year, and who won the Australian domestic under-18 championship last year.
The Thailand qualifying round for Youth Olympics was played under five-a-side format.
Pakistan’s poor show in the event hurt those who are working hard to revive the prestige of Pakistan hockey at the international level.
Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has decided that the national junior hockey team which will be free in September will participate in the six-nation tournament in Rawalpindi as the senior team will be busy playing in Asian Games 2018 in Indonesia.
The junior players and reserves of Pakistan senior team will be combined to form Pakistan Whites or Pakistan A to participate in the six-nation tournament which will be held from September 2-10, involving Afghanistan, Oman, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
PHF sources told ‘The News on Sunday’ that Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) had issued the go-ahead to organise the event in Pakistan. The last time a foreign hockey team came to Pakistan was in 2011 when China visited Karachi.
The five teams are low-ranked but they are the senior national teams of their countries and playing against the senior side of any country will give confidence and international exposure to players, PHF officials say.
Pakistan juniors will learn a lot playing against these teams and get international experience, which they have been deprived of due to various reasons, said President PHF Khalid Khokhar.
He said that as far as the physical fitness issues of players was concerned, Australian physical instructor Daniel Berry had been hired on the recommendations of head coach Roelant Oltmans. And he is doing a wonderful job in Abbottabad, where the Green-shirts are improving their physical fitness, he said.
Khokhar said that he himself visited Abbottabad to monitor the camp which has 30 players.
The PHF President said: “We have bought 30 GSP devices from Holland to improve the physical fitness of our players and now the entire team management is working to improve the hockey skills and fitness of the players. We hope that by the time the Asian Games begin, our team will be in a different shape,” he said.
“Pakistan hockey is improving with each passing day. Our domestic hockey has been strengthened; a number of national ranking hockey tournaments have been introduced in domestic hockey; the preparation of seniors and juniors is running side by side and it is expected that after the 2018 World Cup in India, when some senior players will stop playing, our juniors will be in an ideal position to replace them.”
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that Pakistan juniors will be sent to Holland to participate in their professional hockey league so that they learn modern-day hockey techniques. Holland’s league standard is considered the best in the world. PHF is in negotiations with Holland to finalise the details.