ISLAMABAD: Former Olympians have asked for stern measures to be taken in bringing the national game back on track through proper planning from the grassroots to the top level, as to regain hockey’s lost glory.
There were times when Pakistan was the most successful team in World Cups, Olympics and Champions Trophy winning four World Cups in 1971, 1978, 1982 and 1994. Pakistan also has three gold medals in Olympic Games field hockey tournaments in Rome in 1960, Mexico City in 1968 and Los Angeles in 1984.
Then its downfall began and an always-winning team that played all World Cup editions, could not qualify for the 2014 and 2023 mega-events.
Speaking on the revival of the national game, Olympian Shahbaz Ahmed Sr emphasised proper education of players as he deems that an illiterate cannot carry on in international sports without education.
“There is also a need to build four to five hockey centres in the country directly operated under the federation,” he added. “Youth must be spotted from grassroots, educated and fed properly and trained at these centres according to international standards.”
Shahbaz further pleaded that the PHF must have a proper annual budget and the federation should itself manage its affairs. “Every time we have to request the government for grants to participate in national and international championships or preparation of training camps abroad.”
He said, “Young players must also be offered regular jobs as was happening during our times when all players had jobs in different departments.”
Shahbaz advocated organizing Pakistan Hockey League (PHL) as he believes it would prove a key step towards reviving the national game. “Besides providing financial support to PHF, the league will help explore new talent for regaining our lost glory.”
Once an unbeaten center-forward and a star Olympian Shahnaz Shaikh pleads to blend young players with experienced hands for forming a squad that owns the potential to beat any team in the world.
“Players need to improve their movements and points marking in the D area. They should avoid counterattacks and improve the conversion of penalty corners. If we get three to four penalty corners at least two must be utilized,” Shahnaz said.
“We need to strongly work on all these things if we want to improve our game. Our players must play with unity and avoid individual point scoring in any game,” he commented.
Further suggesting measures for improvement, he said, there were around 28 Education Boards in the country with hundreds of schools affiliated with each Board. “Therefore, if each government school is allowed to participate in tournaments, the total number of participating teams would be in the hundreds. This practice would be a sort of talent hunt bringing new players to the national squad.”
He also suggested designated hockey fields to promote the game as he recalled, “in our times plentiful of national and district tournaments were held annually for improvement of players mental and physical strength.”
“Then there were different departments, offering jobs to players. But, rapid changes in the hockey setup affected the game badly. At present, the Pakistan national hockey team holds the 16th spot in International Hockey Federation (FIH) rankings which is painful,” he said.