Just when it seemed that nothing worse could happen with Pakistan hockey there came what I see as the Dutch debacle. This latest debacle happened in Holland which is hosting the Hockey World Cup 2014. Having failed to make the cut for the quadrennial spectacle, Pakistan’s national team is not featuring in the tournament. But that doesn’t mean that there is no Pakistani presence in Holland.
Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) top officials ostensibly are in the country along with other joy-riders. The word ostensibly might be a bit harsh, but the reports coming from Rotterdam and The Hague will justify the use of it. The officials are claiming that they are convincing international teams to visit Pakistan for hockey events when the domestic infrastructure is almost completely collapsed.
The tyranny of fate is that the phrases I read in literature perfectly describe the state of affairs of the PHF. Seeing the lack of professionalism of these officials, the proverb “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” would come to mind. Finally I have seen a living example of this popular proverb – in Pakistan hockey!
The domestic infrastructure is so pathetic here in Pakistan that PHF has recently postponed and shifted its junior camp for the preparation for Sultan Johor Cup, which will be held in Malaysia in October, twice.
The first time the camp was moved from Karachi’s Hockey Club of Pakistan to Islamabad’s Naseer Bunda Stadium. PHF cited security concern as the city faced turmoil after MQM chief Altaf Hussain was arrested in London. The excuse could be taken as credible since parents of the colts coming from across the country might be worried.
But the PHF once more postponed the camp and shifted it back to Karachi saying that the venue in Islamabad had already been booked for other sports events.
It showed lack of professionalism as they should have known whether the venue would be available for the camp or not before announcing the schedule.
The federation seems to care least that the young players will now undergo a curtailed camp — shortened by no less than five days.
Such high-profile national camps are planned accurately and each and every day counts for the preparation for international competitions.
Pakistan hockey faced further embarrassment when the national veteran team was expelled from the Masters Cup in Holland following a humiliating 24-1 defeat in the opening match against lowly-rated South Africa.
The team played with only nine players because other players failed to reach Holland in time.
Former Olympian and captain Manzoor Junior accused PHF chief selector Islahuddin of favouritism while selecting the team for the tournament.
Manzoor has been quoted as saying that little-known players like Arif Siddiqi, Laiq Ahmed Lashari, Naeem Usmani, Anwar Farooqui, Azam Khan and Mohammad Yousuf were included in the team.
Players like Manzoor, Samiullah, Hanif Khan, Kaleemullah, Hasan Sardar, Ishtiaq Ahmad and Rasheed-ul-Hasan would have proved handy in the tournament if they had been called for the trials.
To say that Pakistan hockey is going through hard times would be an understatement. What it needs is a concrete and unified effort for its promotion and development. Whether the people at the helm of national hockey affairs will be able to do that is a different question.