At a time when it seems that things might start to get better for Pakistan cricket, the forecast for hockey — the country national sport — remain dismal.
After a forgettable 2013, Pakistan hockey will have to go through the ignominy of missing World Cup 2014 to be played in Holland as its national team failed to make the cut for the prestigious event for the first time in history.
Things also look bleak for Pakistan hockey, off the field. Controversial elections have brought back old faces in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) set-up, a development that is bound to add fuel to a prolonged and bitter tussle between top PHF bosses and a group of former Olympians.
It is a sad state of affairs for Pakistan hockey. The country which gave the World Cup to the international hockey community will not be able to take part in the event.
It was Pakistan’s Air Marshal Nur Khan who proposed the idea of organizing the Hockey World Cup to the International Hockey Federation (FIH). It was Pakistan which was to host the inaugural event in 1971, but the tense situation between Pakistan and India forced the event to be held elsewhere. Eventually Barcelona hosted the first edition.
Pakistan was the pioneer of the Hockey World Cup, former hockey Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh said. It is very unfortunate that the country which pioneered the sport’s biggest event has failed to qualify for the World Cup 2014, he lamented.
“It is very disappointing that after seeing the Greenshirts annexing the most number of World Cup titles, we have now even failed to qualify for the World Cup 2014,” Shahnaz said after Pakistan failed to earn qualification through Asia Cup — where they lost in the semi-finals to Korea. Three teams from Asia — Korea, India and Malaysia — have qualified for the World Cup to be played in The Hague, Netherlands.
Pakistan failed to perform well in qualification rounds and therefore the team would not be a part of the World Cup for the first time ever in the history of the event. In its last edition in 2010, Pakistan came 12th out of 12 teams.
Normally when a team under-performs, some top officials tender resignation to avoid unending criticism, taking the responsibility of the below-par showing.
After the team failed to qualify for the World Cup, PHF secretary Asif Bajwa and later coach Akhtar Rasool tendered their resignations after coming under immense pressure to step down.
But Akhtar Rasool, a former Olympian, made a strong comeback by recently taking over the key post of PHF President, astonishingly even after the team’s below-par showing under his stint as Pakistanís head coach.
Isn’t it amazing that the man under whom the Greenshirts failed to qualify for the World Cup has become Pakistan Hockey Federation’s President ‘unopposed’?
Rasool was also federation’s President in late 1990s when the Green-shirts made history for all the wrong reasons as the team for the first time failed to qualify for the elite Champions Trophy.
“The elections of the federation were not elections but in fact it was a selection process as all the posts went to the officials of the previous setup even when their performance was far from satisfactory,” former legendary Olympian Samiullah said.
He said that the elections could not be considered as free and fair since the officials of the federation conducted the scrutiny of clubs and also the elections, although all such things must be done by some neutral body or an ad hoc committee.
The position of PHF secretary went to Rana Mujahid, who served in different capacities under the previous setup. After Asif Bajwa resigned, Rana was serving as acting secretary.
“I tell you the future of hockey is bleak. We are hearing the same lip service which we heard back in 2008 when Qasim Zia and Asif Bajwa became President and Secretary. The standard of the national sport is falling and the pathetic attitude of the federation tells it will continue to do so,” Samiullah lamented.