IT is hard to recall the last time Qasim Zia and Akhtar Rasool appeared so happy. A bronze in the Champions Trophy in Australia has provided the two hockey stalwarts their moment of vindication. Others will dispute their claim, which won’t detract from a reasonably good show by Pakistan at the Champions Trophy — a tournament close to this country’s heart. Pakistan started this tournament and won its first two editions when hockey was at its peak here. The sport is not quite the same anymore. Nor is the Pakistan side what it used to be. The pushes have given way to vulgar shoves and some harsh stick-work. But the attempt at finding refuge in the glory that was Asian-style hockey is of no use and the show has to go on. Pakistan must improve to feature as a worthy contender. That’s where everyone needs to chip in.
The national giants of yore have of late been found trying to score goals against each other. The current management has been on the defensive for not coming up to the expectations that hockey still generates here. It has particularly been under tremendous pressure from some vociferous ex-national stars, many of whom have also run the affairs of the team in recent years. Pakistan Hockey Federation president Qasim Zia’s call to these greats to contribute to the progress of hockey at a time when Pakistan has shown some promise should be reciprocated. Simultaneously, the management needs to concentrate on removing the flaws he has identified — the two major ones being lack of initiative upfront and of mental strength among the players generally. Pakistan hockey has been through a dark chapter. If it can sustain these signs of improvement in the Asian Champions Trophy in Qatar later this month it can genuinely hope to stay in the game.