Pakistan Hockey team- the lifeblood of a sports loving nation, for almost a decade, is in a sorry state. The golden era of the 1980s, which stretched into the 1990s as well, cannot be easily forgotten. The three time Olympic and four times world champions were a much feared force in world hockey but no longer as the former awe-inspiring team could not even make it to the Hockey World cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics. A couple of decades ago nobody could have even imagined a major hockey event without Pakistan in it.
The decline was gradual at first and understandable to an extent as many legendary players retired and team was in a rebuilding phase. The kind of talent we had, the world knew that it was a matter of time before we regained our lost status. But unfortunately this was not the case and hockey plunged down further into the abyss. Last time Pakistan won a major world title was way back in 1994 when we were crowned world champions courtesy brilliant performance from one of the greatest forward the world has seen, Shahbaz Ahmed. But since then we could not accomplish something substantial apart from a couple of medals here and there. You would be wondering what may have caused this and why is why the root causes behind this disastrous downfall in hockey standards are worth mentioning.
FITNESS and INADEQUATE INFRASTRUCTURE
The fitness and physique of our current lot of players is terribly below par and not in line with international standards. There is no state of the art facility for the players where they can train and look after themselves. Also they are not given a proper diet plan or the resources to work on their mental and physical fitness in order to keep their body in shape. This is apparent from the fact that whenever our hockey team is on show players find it difficult to carry themselves with the same vigor and determination throughout the match as their lack of match athleticism hampers their progress. The reason why the Dutch, Australian and Germans are reaching new heights is because they are providing their players with all the necessary resources to improve their game and level of fitness. Lack of hockey events at grass root level such as in School and Universities is adding to our woes. It’s about time we bring in some advancement in our structure which has to be done sooner rather than later so that players can nurture under a better environment which will inevitably make them more competitive at the international level.
No sport can grow with lack of resources and it is absolutely clear that our board and players are in dire straits due to the lack of financial incentives. It is a psychological fact that in order to achieve something worthwhile, rewards and perks should be given out but this is not the case with our hockey setup. Most of the hockey players do not have jobs, which are part and parcel of almost every sport, to support their families and those who have one are virtually inadequate as compared to their needs. This is not the attitude which raises your stature at the international level.
As far as the board is concerned they do not even own a stadium which is ridiculous to say the least for a nation that has rich hockey tradition. Although the board was given a substantial sum in 2009 to conduct its affairs but nothing changed. It is crystal clear that that amount of money was misused and blown away ineffectively. No proper audit of its resources and lack of government interest have played an important part in its deterioration during the last few years.
Management plays a key role in formulating a well oiled and properly structured organization. This is not the case with Pakistan Hockey as most of the people who are involved in the core issues do not have proper plan and ability to tackle the situation accordingly. Whenever the team loses the people in the fore front tend to resign while the rest of the people down the line are always involved. Recently the Coach and PHF president resigned after the national team failed to qualify for Rio Olympics 2016 but this is a recurring feature in our setup and it hardly helps us in moving forward.
Also it is absolutely vital to state that the advertising and promotion of hockey in Pakistan is close to none. The young generation is not even aware that it’s our national sport which is heartbreaking to say the least. We need to learn from progressing hockey nations such as the Dutch, Germans and Indians who are working tirelessly to run campaigns and attractive advertisements to foster hockey in their respective regions. The individual hockey leagues are a major success in those countries. So the fact of the matter is that we need to adopt a similar approach and bring up talent and merit in hockey. As soon we are on the right track the leading institutions and firms will have the confidence to invest in hockey as well and not restrict themselves to one sport that is cricket. The stirring phase of every sport is the struggle for domination and Pakistan hockey has some catching up to do.
LACK OF TOURS
Due to lack of international events in Pakistan after the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in 2009 we are struggling to conduct continuous tours. If it’s not possible to convince international teams in Pakistan, we should adopt neutral venues as a rear guard action. UAE, Malaysia, China etc are good avenues to help us out in that regard. This will inevitably give our players more exposure and much needed experience which only comes by playing with top sides in the world.
In short, there is a lot that our new Hockey federation and players have to achieve to climb up the ladder. It has to be carried out step by step and preferably 2-3 years short plans should be put in place. I am confident that with the right approach and sincere people Pakistan hockey team can become world beaters again.