Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Pakistan’s Hannan aims to win final, lauds Roelant Oltmans

Pakistan will face Japan in the final on May 11

May 09, 2024
Hannan celebrates after scoring a goal. - Facebook/Flash Sukan

KARACHI: Pakistan hockey was at an all-time low when they failed to qualify for the Olympics, where they won three gold medals, for the third consecutive time earlier this year. Additionally, the Green Shirts also failed to qualify for the World Cup, where they bagged gold four times in the past, last year.

However, the ongoing Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, has proven to be a breath of fresh air for hockey fans after Pakistan qualified for the final of the event for the first time in 13 years on Wednesday.

The three-time winners, Pakistan, will face Japan in the final on Saturday. However, before the final, Pakistan will face New Zealand tomorrow in their last round-robin match.

Speaking exclusively to on Thursday, Pakistan’s star forward Abdul Hannan Shahid said that the match against New Zealand will be important in terms of preparations for the final.

“The match against New Zealand tomorrow will be like a practice match for us and will help us fine-tune our preparations for the final against Japan,” Hannan said.

“I’m confident that Pakistan will win the final against Japan,” he added.

Pakistan are at the top of the points table in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2024 with three wins in four matches. They only dropped points in a drawn match against Japan.

Shedding light on Pakistan’s opponents in the final, Hannan said that Japan’s defensive line is extremely solid. Japan have only conceded four goals, the fewest in the tournament so far, in as many matches.

“Japan are defensively very solid and they don’t give many openings to their opponents,” he said. “As far as attack is concerned, they might not be as creative as some of the other teams but they are quite effective in taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes on the field.”

“Pakistan have scored a high number of goals but at the same time, we are conceding at the other end as well. However, we will try to rectify our defensive flaws in the remaining matches,” he added.

Hannan also admitted that Pakistan didn’t play well against Canada in their last match despite winning 5-4 against the weakest side in the tournament.

“I agree that it was a sloppy performance against Canada as we made quite a few errors while defending,” he said. “The hot and humid weather yesterday, especially because it was a day match, also made things difficult for us.”

Hannan, who was named Emerging Player of Asia last year, also highlighted the role played by Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans in Pakistan's success in the ongoing Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

“The presence of Roelant Oltmans has been one of the main reasons why the team is doing well. He worked with many of the current players in the Junior World Cup last year as well so most of us know his style of coaching and tactics. He is also very experienced which is beneficial for the team,” he said.

Pakistan’s performance is also commendable, even though some of the other teams in the event have not fielded their full-strength lineups, because they took the field at a time when there was chaos back home, due to the presence of two parallel hockey federations, separate training camps and threat of ban from FIH, while also bearing in mind that the players have not been paid for the majority of the tournaments held over the last one year.

However, Hannan hoped for better days for Pakistan hockey in the future.

“We need to create a proper system for hockey in our country so that the players are financially stable while playing hockey. I hope our good performance on the field will force the authorities in Pakistan to step up for the betterment of the game,” he concluded.

Pakistan’s performance in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup should be a morale booster for the team especially because the team has to feature in the FIH Nations Cup in Gniezno, Poland, from May 31 to June 9 as well. The Nations Cup is important because the winning team will have the opportunity to play in the FIH Hockey Pro League for the 2024-25 season.

Pakistan’s results in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2024 so far: 

Won 5-4 against Malaysia

Won 4-0 against Korea

Drew 1-1 with Japan

Won 5-4 against Canada

Muneeb Farrukh is a senior staffer at