KARACHI: Hockey is Pakistan’s national sport, although I won’t blame you for thinking it’s cricket, is not even a shadow of what it was keeping in mind its rich history in the game.
Pakistan’s hockey has descended into a bottomless pit of mediocrity over the last decade despite winning multiple gold medals in Olympics and the World Cup in the past.
The decay can be judged from the fact that Pakistan failed to book their spot in back-to-back Olympic Games, 2016 and 2022, while also missing out on the 2023 World Cup.
Absence of professionals in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), lack of emphasis on fitness and sports sciences and financial instability are some of the major reasons behind Pakistan’s gradual decline in the sport.
Some of the players have also been forced to quit Pakistan hockey and ply their trade abroad due to lucrative financial opportunities.
Pakistan, who are ranked 16th on the FIH Rankings, will take the field after a long gap of eight months in the Asian Hockey Champions Trophy in Chennai, India, which begins tomorrow. The senior team’s last outing was in the FIH Nations Cup in December 2022 in South Africa, where they finished in seventh place in the eight-team event.
Despite the obstacles, Pakistan’s star forward Abdul Hanan Shahid is confident about putting up a good show during the Asian event.
Hanan has scored 10 goals for Pakistan in 21 senior appearances. He also has nine goals in 10 caps at junior level. He was also declared Player of the Tournament during the Junior Asia Cup 2023.
Hanan also bagged the award for Emerging Player of Asia earlier this year.
The youngster also said that India will have edge over other teams in the Asian Hockey Champions Trophy.
“The competition will be tough during the tournament but we have tried to tick all the boxes in the training camp and the players are confident ahead of the event,” Hanan told geosuper.tv in an exclusive interview.
“India will have edge over Pakistan because of the home crowd and the fact that they are also participating in the Hockey Pro League, which included all the top hockey nations in the world.
“However, it is also important to see which team plays better on the day. Our players are motivated to do well and I’m hopeful that Pakistan team will finish on the podium.”
Hanan also said that he is focused on representing the national side despite getting multiple offers from clubs in Europe.
“I get many offers from clubs in England, Belgium and Germany but my first priority is to serve the national team. Whatever I have achieved in the game is because of the Pakistan Hockey Federation,” he said.
“I also would like to mention that we only get good offers from top clubs when we are playing with the national team. If we are out of the team, only lower division clubs approach us.
“I currently have no plans about leaving the national team for club hockey in the future. I hope things also get better in Pakistan hockey. If we win medal in Asian Hockey Champions Trophy and the Asian Games this year, it will give boost to our hockey.”
Pakistan and India have won the Asian Champions Trophy thrice each, which makes them the most successful teams in the event.
Korea are the defending champions of the event after winning the title in 2021 after beating Japan on penalties in the final in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The 2023 edition of the Asian Hockey Champions Trophy will be played between August 3 to 12.
All six teams will each play five matches in the round-robin stage with the top four set to qualify for the semi-finals. The last four matches will be held on August 11, with the final on the next day.
August 3 - vs Malaysia
August 4 - vs Korea
August 6 - vs Japan
August 7 - vs China
August 9 - vs India