Non-participation in the World Cup is a tragedy for Pak Hockey

Opinion Jan, 27 2023
Non-participation in the World Cup is a tragedy for Pak Hockey
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The 15th FIH Hockey World Cup, which was held from January 13 to January 29 at Kalenga Stadium in Bhubaneswar and Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela India, had entered its final stages. Both venues are hosting a total of 24 matches. In the current World Cup, the Belgium team is defending its title, while surprisingly, the host team India has been eliminated from the title race. This is the second time when the Pakistani team that has won the World Cup most times is not participating in the World Cup. So far, Pakistan 4, Holland and Australia 3, Germany 2, while the teams of Belgium and India have won the World Cup once each. A total of sixteen teams participating in the 15th World Cup were divided into four pools.  In Pool “A”, Australia, South Africa, France and Argentina.  Belgium, Japan, Korea and Germany in Pool “B”.  Netherlands, Chile, Malaysia and New Zealand in Pool “C”. 

While Pool “D” included the teams of India, Wales, Spain and England - but after the pool matches were completed, Australia and Argentina, from Pool A, Belgium and Germany from Pool B, Netherland and Malaysia from Pool C, while the teams of England and India from Pool D were able to reach the quarterfinals. At this stage, all eyes were now on the teams that reached the semi-finals and final. Regardless of all this, the qualification of the teams of Chile, Wales and Malaysia for the World Cup is being seen as a pleasant surprise. There, it is considered a tragedy that the Pakistani hockey team, which won the World Cup most times, did not qualify. It should be noted that there was a time when Pakistan’s parrot spoke in the world of hockey. The national hockey team played an important role in raising the green crescent flag in the early years of Pakistan’s formation. The Pakistani team crossed a milestone by winning the gold medal in the World International Hockey Tournament held in Barcelona in 1950. While winning the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo under the leadership of Abdul Hameed Hamidi surprised the world. 

But when they achieved the feat of winning the 1960 Rome Olympics under the leadership of Abdul Hameed Hamidi, not only the world sports but also the hockey lovers became crazy about the Pakistani team. The Pakistan Hockey Team has so far won three Olympics, four World Cups, three Champions Trophies and other international hockey tournaments and test series at the International level. In the early years of the 80’s, especially until winning the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, hockey was the sport of Pakistan, whose followers numbered not in the millions, but in the crores. It can be said that the period up to half of the 90s was the golden era of Pakistan hockey. During this time, the national hockey team was a collection of star players that did not bring to mind the biggest teams in the world of hockey. The Pakistani team achieved the feat of winning the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics under the leadership of Manzoor Jr., while winning the 1994 World Cup and Champions Trophy under the leadership of Olympian Shahbaz Sr. was considered the last major achievement. This was the era when world renowned penalty corner expert Olympian Sohail Abbas was able to achieve the feat of scoring 348 goals at the international level for Pakistan. This record of his still stands today.

 But then began a period of politics and failures in hockey that can rightly be called a national tragedy.  As the performance graph of the national team went down, the enthusiasm found among the hockey fans also disappeared, while the coverage of the national game in the print and electronic media was relatively less or not enough, and so the interest in hockey players reduced by time. Well, there are many reasons for the failures of the national hockey team in the current era, among which the jobs and careers of the top young players are the main problem. It should be noted that until the early years of the 90’s, there used to be teams from 30 to 40 different institutions in the country.  During this period other institutions including PIA, Customs and various banks played a major role in which well-performing players across the country were able to get employment through hockey. During this time, the player pool was also large, due to which the number of players with outstanding performance was high, but then gradually the institutions ended their hockey teams and the big foreign teams stopped coming to Pakistan using the excuse of security after the incident of 9/11, while the Pakistan Hockey Federation could not send its team abroad due to lack of funds because of which the players of the national hockey team did not get the exposure they were supposed to get and their performance continued to deteriorate.  Now, according to an estimate, there are only eight to ten hockey teams left in Pakistan, due to which not only the young players have employment and career problems, but the pool of players is also small due to the decrease in the teams of the institutions.  Due to which the number of outstanding players has also decreased, this is the reason why its direct or indirect effects have reached the fitness level of our players. And so the fitness level of our players is not upto the current global standard. And this is becoming the main reason for our defeat in most matches. Obviously, when a player’s fitness level is not up to the required standard, his stamina will not be good and when the stamina is not able to meet the required requirements, he will not be able to deliver his skills better inside the ground.

 Moreover, it is also our tragedy that we use our skills to save our seats instead of focusing on the development of hockey. How sad that a country that has the honor of winning the Olympic World Cup Champions Trophy, Asian Games and other major hockey tournaments in the world today faces challenges while playing against the weakest teams of the world. The present Pakistan Hockey Federation, whose President Brigadier (R) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and Secretary Syed Haider Hussain will definitely try to take Pakistan Hockey out of this vortex. For this they have to follow long term integrated planning. This work is definitely difficult but it will also guarantee success in the coming days.

Published in The Daily National Courier, January, 27 2023

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