The prevailing system is not good enough to lift the national sport from its bootstraps. An interview with Tauqir Dar.
Former Olympic gold medallist of the 1984 vintage, Tauqir Dar comes from a family of Olympians that boasts a gold apiece by father (Munir Dar), son (Tauqir himself) and uncle (Tanvir Dar) sandwiched in between in Pakistan’s three golden finishes in 1960, 1964 and 1968 respectively.
Tauqir is a man of strong opinions, like his late father and father-in-law, Khawaja Zakauddin. Here are excerpts from an interview on the dismal state of Pakistan hockey and how the situation can be reversed.
Q: How do you evaluate the year that is about to come to a close in three weeks in terms of Pakistan Hockey’s performances and progress?
A: The year 2013 saw Pakistan Hockey plumb the depths. For this hockey-proud nation, nothing could be worse than not qualifying for the World Cup – an event that was Pakistan’s gift to world hockey. This was an event that we had previously won four times, and runner-up another two times. Not qualifying for the event proper was our worst ever, and a huge shock. This makes it our worst year, by far.
Q: The dispensation that has just been replaced squandered Pakistan’s opportunity to participate in the prestigious Commonwealth Games 2014 due to its politics with the POA. How much of a setback that is for Pakistan Hockey?
A: Well, sport in this country is not important for the ruling elite. So in the near future we are going to be debarred from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as well because the government-run national federations have been ordered to support the renegade Sahi group. This is very unfortunate because the IOC recognizes Lt Gen (Retd) Arif Hasan and the PHF is toeing the government’s line and supporting Sahi because they want funds from the government to run the affairs of hockey.
Q: Having not qualified for the World Cup 2014 for the first time ever, what are the implications for Pakistan Hockey?
A: Nothing can stop the downward graph of Pakistan hockey unless the prime minister of Pakistan takes serious notice of this decline and takes it as a national calamity because people like you and me know what were the repercussions of the national hockey team’s defeat in the early 1970s, in the Munich Olympics, when a silver was considered a national loss.
Unless we start owning this national game from the highest office and restoring the elite status of the game and its players by opening doors of job opportunities in departments like the Customs, PIA and the Police or by giving responsibility of hockey to corporate sector giants like Mian Mansha or Malik Riaz, who can invest into the sport by running it on professional lines, nothing is going to change. The Indians have corporatised their sport, in cricket, in badminton and in hockey, and the results are there for all to see.
Q: You run a hockey academy which has identified, trained and groomed young talent for the Pakistan teams, both junior and senior. What is your take on available talent in the country?
A: Compared to the 1980, when we had almost one million youngsters playing our national sport, now in the entire country you would not find more than 5,000 boys playing hockey and aiming to represent the country and by doing so enjoying a better future and life. There is not a single reason to lure our youth towards hockey. Your national hockey players are a role model for the young aspirants and when they see them in dire situation, where they feel dishonoured and disgruntled, nobody wants to play hockey. No wonder the pool of hockey players in Pakistan has shrunk so badly.
Q: Given that Akhtar Rasool was president of the Federation in the late 1990s for nearly three years, and subsequently has had various stints as chief selector, chief coach and manager and was not able to turnaround Pakistan Hockey, how can we expect him to do it now – when the situation has gone from bad to worse under his watch?
A: Our sports administrator must be a role model for our politicians because people running our national federations are indeed polished politicians. The baton has changed hands from the PPP to the PML-N, but political allegiance remains the norm. In the PHF, it is a game of musical chairs run by the same old stooges who come in and disappear on their turn. In the prevailing system, there is no hope for Pakistan hockey.
Q: As a whole where do you see Pakistan Hockey is headed to? Will it ever be able to recapture its glory days, given the dilapidated state it is in?
A: If it continues like it has, we are headed toward ignominy and shameful. That unfortunately is our destiny, unless we change course.
Agha Akbar is Associate Editor, Pakistan Today.