Hockey: From “Glory” to “Sorry”
National game hockey, which was once considered the pride and glory of the nation, now has become tarnish on country’s sports. Sixty six years of splendid hockey are over, the team which holds four World Cups and 3 Champions Trophy along with dozens of other unbreakable records, has failed in a bid to even qualify for hockey World Cup of 2014. 3rd place in the 9th Asia Cup was not sufficient for Green Shirts to appear in the mega event. Pakistan must had to win Asia Cup to qualify for World Cup but the team was defeated by South Korea in semi final and consequently Pakistan’s march towards victory stand was impeded.
The debate has started as to why hockey has lost its strength and why combination of senior and juniors players is not paying off? To commence, one can easily point out the hypocrisy, nepotism and personal liking and disliking of Pakistan Hockey Federation, that has brought hockey at its lowest ebb. Tensions within the federation for getting ‘better’ designation are also at its peak however no homework for development of the game and players alike. The federation has lots of wherewithal but lacks the vision and passion.
Secondly, lack of infrastructure at domestic level has debilitated the hockey. Majority of players are coming from Gojra and Faisalabad districts but on the other hand, small and big cities don’t have even ground for playing such a sophisticated game. It is true that legends of past came after playing on rusty grounds and without proper facilities but dynamics of contemporary hockey have changed dramatically. The green astroturf has been replaced with blue one and running like ‘flying horse’ is not the only key to success. Another reason is that Pakistani players have not opted modern techniques of hockey. Sorry tale of defender’s deficiencies and individual play of forward line continues to dent the team at very crucial time and in do or die situations. Coaches must understand that Asian style hockey is only feasible for teams like Bangladesh or Japan but to conquer the castle of European teams, it is necessary to go for modern hockey techniques.
Lastly, it is PHF and coaching staff’s complete failure that a bunch of back up players has not been installed so far. Just take an example of penalty corner specialists. Since Sohail Abbas is no more part of the side, conversion rate of PCs has sharply declined. In Asia Cup’s semi final, Pakistan earned 4 penalty corners but could only be converted into goal, once. Others like Muhammad Waseem has played more than 400 international matches but his successor is nowhere on the scene and same is the case with goal keeping department. Salman Akber has handed out the team for years but his back up, Imran Shah, is not capable of handling pressure and lacks the technique to anticipate the move of drag flickers.
Despite pitiable performance in Asia Cup, World Hockey League and other recent tournaments, which were road to qualify World Cup, no hockey official, coach or dignitary resigned, neither took responsibility of the devastating tragedy with national game. PHF and all concerned departments have to come up with new mechanism and vision so as to put Green Shirts back on track. Only ‘sorry’ cannot reinstate the time of ‘glory’.