Khabeer Ul Tanwir
The Pakistan hockey team started its Olympic quest as underdogs. Their performance in the first four games even though cannot be called as extraordinary but they have still kept the country’s hopes alive.
Pakistan started its Olympic campaign after a dismal performance at the Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh, Malaysia where Pakistan which is currently ranked eighth in the hockey world finished rock bottom. They faced consecutive defeats at the hands of Malaysia, South Korea, Britain, India and New Zealand. Apart from Malaysia, all the other teams had a place in the Olympics. The team management and the PHF in particular gave same old lame excuses to their dismal performance. One of them was of the blue turf but one fails to understand why the turf was blamed for their own follies like crucial missing as it is just the change of colour otherwise the surface is the same.
Hockey pundits believe the sacking Dutch coach Michel van Den just before team’s Olympics preparation dented the team’s progress but they should understand that at that point in time the team was being built under new management. Although under the Dutch coach, the team regained the 2010 Asian Games gold medal at Guangzhou, China after a lapse of 20 years and qualified for the London Olympics and also won silver in the 2011 edition of the Azlan Shah Cup but they should also understand the implication the PHF was facing for his non-cooperation in team’s training.
Pakistan though began its Olympics campaign with a draw against Spain but it showed glimpses of its past by winning against Argentina and South Africa. But their spineless loss to Great Britain in between made things hard for them and has put them in a do-or-die situation in their last league match against Australia.
Their defeat to Britain yielded immense criticism from Olympians but the mix of seniors and juniors brought Pakistan back into contention with win over South Africa and the odds turned slightly in Pakistan’s favour after Australia played a draw against Argentina. And now all the top four teams of Pool A Pakistan, Australia, Great Britain and Spain would be dying to earn a place in the last four. Australia and Great Britain can also rest with a draw but Pakistan and Spain are in a must win situation.
All Pakistan need is the keep its defence knitted stronger and the mid-field and forwards work with coordination with the latter finding a proper opening to land home the ball. One must remind that Pakistan is the only team that has surprised the Australians in Australia to win a tri-nation tournament recently and as Manzoor Junior, the team captain of 1984 Gold Medalist Olympic team, puts it that if Pakistan plays its traditional game of through passes and rapid attacks their place in the semi-final is certain.
So Pakistan’s only hope at the London Olympics lies with the Green Shirts who have the fire and all they need is to advocate it in practical on the field.