Islah paints depressing picture of Pakistan hockey
KARACHI, June 5: Showing his disappointment at the Pakistan hockey team’s recent performance in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh Malaysia, former captain and coach Islahuddin Siddiqui on Tuesday tried giving some advice to the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) ahead of the Olympics.
Speaking to Dawn from the USA, the most successful captain and coach of the national team said that he hates to point fingers and blame the PHF time and again.
“But what can us former Olympians do when the team puts up such lousy performances? The facts speak for themselves,” he pointed out.
“The PHF were calling this year’s Azlan Shah a dress rehearsal for the Olympics. Well, looking at how the dress rehearsal went, we don’t even want to imagine how the team will fare at the Olympics.”
About Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, he said that this year’s participation made it a B-grade tournament.
“Apart from Pakistan, there was South Korea, Malaysia, India, Great Britain, Argentina and New Zealand giving you four teams from Asia, one from Europe and one New Zealand team. All these teams are lower in ranking than Asian champions Pakistan,” he pointed.
“And we put up a horrible performance in a small event to end up last among seven teams. After winning just the opening match [against Argentina], we lost the remaining five. And in doing so we scored nine goals and conceded 16,” the former player, who as chief coach and manager of the national team won the Asia Cup and the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup International in 1989, noted.
“As chief coach and manager of the Pakistan team, I helped the side win the Asian Games in 1990, the Champions Trophy in 1991 and the Bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. That was the last time the Green Shirts reached the podium in the Olympics. What have the recent PHF top brass and coaches done for the team?” Islah questioned.
“Asif Bajwa [the PHF secretary] came into the running of team affairs just a couple of months ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So they have had a full four years to prepare the team for the upcoming London Olympics. But instead progress, I only see decline,” he lamented.
“Except for the Asian Games, the national team in these four years came eighth out of 12 teams in the Beijing Olympics, last out of 12 in the World Cup, seventh out of eight teams in the Champions Trophy and now they are seventh out of seven teams in the Azlan Shah Cup!
“With such kind of statistics, it is obvious that the federation hasn’t been able to deliver. All that they seem to be doing is cover up their faults. After every loss they said ‘well, our target is the next event’,” said the Olympian. “I believe that you can prepare the weakest team on Earth in four years if you really want to and have the best interests of the game at heart. And this federation couldn’t do that despite facilities and being given a freehand by the government,” he lamented.
“The PHF throughout last year spent most of their time and efforts on the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) elections. Did PHF President Qasim Zia really need to be the POA president too? And what did they get in return of their efforts? Nothing! And hockey suffered badly due to this shift of attention. So my advice to them is leave politics aside and please concentrate on hockey. There is still time to wake up,” he observed.
The former player is of the opinion that there was still time to turn the team’s fortunes around. “They should hold camp for a continuous six to seven weeks at Abbottabad. A 15 to 20-day training camp going not enough. It has to be for almost one and a half months. And I say Abbottabad because the weather there is almost identical to the London weather in July,” he suggested.
“Apart from physical training, the boys need plenty of training for hitting penalty-corners. The forwards need to be trained in scoring from different angles. Also plenty of practice and technique is needed in the area of deep defence. Conceding 16 goals in Azlan Shah asks for plenty of work in that department. Also scoring just nine goals gives our forwards the scoring average one-and-half goals in the tournament,” he said.
About the senior players and rebels, Islah said that if the PHF wants to replace them in favour of fresh blood they could have done so earlier.
“They could have discarded them after the team’s ending up at the bottom in the World Cup or they could have sent them home on a high not after getting the Asian Games gold. They shouldn’t even try to do it now at this stage,” he said.
“Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi played very well in the World Series Hockey (WSH). Another player, Imran Warsi, became the league’s top scorer. If you ignore them after such performances, you are doing the team disfavour as they deserve to be in the Olympic squad. Also
[former captain] Mohammad Imran, who didn’t even play in the WSH is twiddling his thumbs for reasons best known to the PHF,” he concluded.