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On the right track?

PHF has accelerated its efforts to take Pakistan to the top of the world once again

On the right track?

There have been some significant developments in hockey recently. PHF’s electoral process has been completed. The government has approved a handsome grant for running the affairs of hockey. For the first time in our sports history, the GPS technology is going to be used in hockey to monitor physical fitness of the players.

AHF has given the go-ahead to PHF to organise a six-nation tournament in September in Rawalpindi.

The senior hockey team’s coach Roelant Oltmans has expanded his plan of training. He wants to take advantage of the team’s stay in Holland for participating in 37th Champions Trophy. He has recommended two coaches for goalkeeping and penalty corner drills. These two coaches will be attached with Pakistan’s goalkeeper and PC executers to polish their skills during their stay in Holland.

This will be the last edition of the Champions Trophy. And FIH has invited Pakistan to participate in it because the idea of this tournament was conceived by Pakistan around 40 years ago. Pakistan are ranked 13th in the world. Only top-ranked teams are eligible to participate in the event.

The Champions Trophy could prove a turning point for Pakistan hockey, as playing against the best teams of the world will give the players experience of fast-paced hockey. It will help them in Asian Games, where all rivals would be Asian, and after playing against World Champions, Olympic Champions and European Champions, it will be easy for Pakistan to beat South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and India.

Pakistan players will have the third phase of their training in Holland around 15 days before the Champions Trophy starts — on June 23.

Oltmans recommended Dutch penalty corner specialist coach Braham Lomans and goalkeeping coach Denis Fender. Both have been engaged.

PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmed confirmed the appointment of the two and said: “Asian Games are very important for us and Champions Trophy is a chance for us to finalise our preparation for that.

“Playing against the strongest teams of the world and taking advantage of the stay in Netherlands, we decided to appoint the two specialist coaches.

“These expenses will be nothing if we win the Asian Games and directly qualify for the Olympics. Otherwise we would have to incur more expenses to prepare for the qualifying round,” Shahbaz said.

“We are concerned about our goalkeeping and penalty corner specialists,” he added.

Pakistan have only one reliable goalkeeper in Imran Butt, who has been called back to revive his international career after Pakistan suffered humiliating defeats against lowly teams.

Imran, too, is struggling to regain his old form. However, he played well in the Commonwealth Games in Australia last month. The PHF secretary admitted that PHF was facing shortage of funds. “But improving the performance of the players is important and we are trying our best to resolve these issues,” he said.

Oltmans has said that the performance of the Green-shirts in Commonwealth Games was better than before but a lot of hard work was yet to be done.

The six-nation hockey event will involve Afghanistan, Oman, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Turkey and hosts Pakistan.

PHF has been struggling for the last couple of years to bring international hockey back to the country. Last year a World XI visited the country and played one match each in Lahore and Karachi.

The sources further said that the federations of these countries had expressed their readiness to participate in the tournament. PHF has assured AHF that foolproof security arrangements would be made for the teams.

PHF sources also confirmed that due to Pakistan’s senior hockey team busy schedule, they would not participate in the six-nation tournament in September and instead of them Pakistan junior team would participate in the event.

A PHF high official said that they wanted to launch the Pakistan Hockey League (PHL) in 2018 but because of the hectic schedule of Pakistan team they were not in a position to organise it in the current year.

Pakistan junior hockey team’s training camp has been started in Karachi at Dr Muhammad Ali Shah-Islahuddin Hockey academy. The training is aimed at maintaining the form and fitness of the players.

The juniors are preparing to participate in the World Cup 2019. Pakistan were prevented from participating in the Junior World Cup in 2016 in India by the host federation’s delaying tactics. PHF is trying to send the junior team on a foreign tour to play against a couple of strong teams. It has contacted some countries to arrange a series with Pakistan juniors in June and July and is waiting for their response, sources said.

Syed Intikhab Ali

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