Ranked at No. 18 on the earth presently, Pakistan are in unfamiliar territory on the FIH rankings, observing the potential for lacking yet one more World Cup (after 2014). And should you occur to satisfy any Pakistani hockey followers, do not even point out the truth that they missed the final two Olympics (2016 and 2020/21). These wounds are nonetheless contemporary.
But when Belgium can do it, why cannot Pakistan? Belgium gained their first Olympic medal in 1920. Then they took 96 years to win their subsequent on the Video games. Like Pakistan, they have been No. 18 twelve years in the past. In these 12 years since then, Belgium have gained two Olympic medals (gold and silver), the World Cup title and the European Championship.
Maybe a comparability with India shall be extra related to Pakistan. After 2010, India adopted knowledgeable and scientific method and extra importantly accepted what was mistaken, and corrected it. That change paved the way in which for a return to the Olympic podium (bronze) in 2021.
Legacy, thus, is usually a double-edged sword. In the event you cling onto it, it will not let you see what’s mistaken. However should you settle for that ‘legacy’ is up to now tense and will not proceed should you do not evolve, then the outcomes will begin flowing in.
Hockey in Pakistan is in that state. They should settle for, adapt and transfer.
However it absolutely is not simple. It took India 11 years and the ouster of a regime to result in that change. There are nonetheless a whole lot of wrongs within the system however the sport has benefited. That may be a reality.
Former media supervisor of the Pakistan group, Ijaz Chaudhry, has seen that journey of Pakistan from high to backside very carefully.
“From 1956 to 1984, Pakistan have been principally the winners or runners-up, whether or not it was the Olympics or the World Cup…Within the 1973 World Cup, Pakistan completed fourth. This was slightly setback. However then they improved once more. Completed second within the 1990 World Cup, third on the 1992 Olympics and gained the 1994 World Cup. Thereafter, it is simply decline and decline,” mentioned Chaudhry speaking to TimesofIndia.com from Pakistan.
“From lacking out on medals, it has reached a stage the place we aren’t capable of even qualify for the Olympics,” he added.
However it might’t be with out particular causes; and to Pakistan’s credit score, they tried bringing a change by hiring Roelant Oltmans as coach in 2018, but it surely ended unceremoniously because the Dutchman stepped down with lower than a 12 months in workplace, blaming the “atmosphere” within the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF).
“The Federation shouldn’t be being run professionally, incompetent individuals are there,” mentioned Chaudhry. “Had we performed the Professional League, then a minimum of we’d have remained part of the mainstream.”
Chaudhry was referring to Pakistan’s choice in 2019 to withdraw from the Professional League, citing monetary constraints.
It price Pakistan dearly. They did not play any worldwide hockey, rating factors got here at a premium and it led to free fall. The end result was they obtained a troublesome opponent within the Olympic qualification draw and performed the Netherlands within the new format of the two-match qualifier.
The Dutch group gained 10-5 on combination, after being surprisingly held to a 4-Four draw within the first match after which profitable 6-1 within the second recreation to close the Olympic door on Pakistan for the second version in a row.
An effort to revive issues was made throughout that qualifier as nicely, when the PHF despatched an SOS to former captain Waseem Ahmed to affix the group as mentor within the dugout. However such short-term preparations can generally do extra hurt than good.
THE NEED TO BE PATIENT
Any change would take time to indicate the specified outcomes. Maybe it is on these grounds that the brand new PHF administration, led by president Khalid S Khokhar and secretary basic Asif Bajwa, determined to rent the providers of Dutchman Siegfried Aikman, who took Japan to the 2018 Asian Video games gold.
Earlier than being formally declared by the PHF as Pakistan’s new coach, Aikman got here scouting with the under-21 squad to the Junior World Cup in India not too long ago. What he noticed is but to be identified, however the juniors hardly impressed, ending 11th within the 16-team event that noticed France, Malaysia, South Africa and South Korea ending larger than Pakistan.
Aikman has been supplied a five-year contract and is presently with the senior squad for the Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka.
“Firstly, I need them to have a actuality verify. Meaning residing up to now does not assist. So we have to settle for that we declined. We’re quantity 18 on the earth, which signifies that different groups are doing higher than us…The time that we may stay up to now is over,” Aikman mentioned, speaking to TimesofIndia.com from Dhaka.
He’s attempting to first handle the behavior of ‘clinging onto the legacy’, which is previous. Aikman made an fascinating commentary, pending a “fact-check”, about no matter he has seen to this point within the gamers.
“They name them skillful (however) I’ve one other opinion. For my part, they’ve a whole lot of potential. However skillful? I do not know,” the Dutchman mentioned.
“I feel they’re excellent dodgers, however dodging is slightly a part of the hockey recreation. If I have a look at technical expertise like passing and receiving, I see too many unforced errors…They hardly management the ball nicely on the primary contact, they usually can not play the ball in a single contact more often than not due to that.
“So should you have a look at the calls for of contemporary hockey and high-performance hockey, you see that they’re missing…We have to modernise the coaches in Pakistan.” Aikman additional informed TimesofIndia.com.
‘THIS IS PAKISTAN, NOT EUROPE’
Solely time will inform if Aikman and PHF are on the identical web page.
Chaudhry in the meantime supplied a first-hand native perspective of Aikman’s preliminary commentary, and the explanation why expertise in Pakistan could possibly be waning, if not totally out of sight but.
“That is Pakistan, not Europe the place sport is secondary,” mentioned Chaudhry. “There are folks beneath the poverty line. Getting jobs (via hockey) was a allure earlier. That has completed. The coverage of this authorities is to finish sports activities departments altogether, no matter is left.”
Division hockey was the soul of the game in Pakistan. Virtually each authorities and public-sector endeavor firm used to have hockey groups that they took delight in. It isn’t the case anymore and sport is now not a sensible option to make a profession.
In response to Chaudhry, that scenario has additional worsened for the reason that Imran Khan administration got here to energy. However he insists all shouldn’t be misplaced.
“Downsizing and right-sizing led to (division) groups being shut down. Then there’s the issue of glamour. In case your nationwide group is doing nicely, then there’s allure and pleasure among the many younger gamers. That can be not there, then cash shouldn’t be there, jobs should not there,” mentioned Chaudhary.
“When the Imran Khan authorities got here (to energy), Pakistan have been 10th within the FIH rankings, now we’re 18th. So you possibly can nicely think about how honest he’s in direction of Pakistan hockey.” he added.
“The intention is simply to go the time, get pleasure from international excursions and have followers who maintain pleasing you…They stabbed, murdered Pakistan hockey,” Chaudhry additional mentioned.
ALL IS NOT LOST
Danish Kaleem, who was the Pakistan coach on the Junior World Cup not too long ago held in India, tried to indicate the promising aspect of makes an attempt being made to vary the method in direction of hockey governance in Pakistan. He, nevertheless, admitted that the choice to withdraw from the Professional League was a physique blow.
“We’ve got suffered due to our choice to overlook the Professional League,” mentioned Kaleem.
“Now, Asif Bajwa has joined once more (as PHF secretary basic) and our president, Khalid S Khokhar, is attempting to enhance a whole lot of issues. He’s severe about Pakistan enjoying all of the FIH tournaments and matches subsequent 12 months. If we try this, our rating may even enhance.” Kaleem informed TimesofIndia.com.
However Pakistan’s possibilities of enjoying worldwide matches can solely exist once they journey, as most worldwide groups have nonetheless marked the nation as a no-go zone for security causes.
That’s the reason, as Chaudhry claims, he made an effort to efficiently persuade the FIH and Scotland to make Glasgow Pakistan’s ‘residence’ to play the house leg of their Professional League video games, however weeks earlier than that, the PHF opted out of the event as a result of monetary constraints.
If that continues and cash does not movement in from the federal government and corporates, Pakistan hockey’s struggles might not finish very quickly..
“Corporates are able to contribute in the event that they see the place their cash is being spent,” mentioned Chaudhry.
“Once they (PHF) mooted the concept of a league, even the franchise house owners of the T20 cricket league (Pakistan Tremendous League) obtained , even Pakistanis from overseas. However once they come and see how unprofessional the PHF is, they run away.
“However there are succesful folks as nicely, like Tauqeer Dar, who’s operating an academy in Lahore. They’ve toured Holland, Germany, Malaysia and even India as soon as with none assist from the federal government or federation, all non-public sponsors. 5 of his gamers have been within the Junior World Cup group,” Chaudhry added.
Aikman might have all of the plans on the earth for tactics to revive the game in Pakistan and PHF might speak about beginning a league and constructing high-performance centres, but when the sources should not there or should not nicely spent, none of which will come to fruition.
For now, Pakistan hockey followers have their eyes firmly mounted on Aikman, however it could be unfair to evaluate him on how the group does on the Asian Champions Trophy. Such short-sightedness has damage Pakistan and in reality India too repeatedly up to now.
Pakistan’s speedy aim is to qualify for the 2023 World Cup through the Asia Cup to be held in 2022, which can be the 12 months of the Asian Video games and the Commonwealth Video games. Whereas Aikman is optimistic, he has already informed the folks of Pakistan that he’s not a person with a magic wand.
“I can not assure success. I’m only a regular human being. What I can assure is that I’ll create a preventing machine, I’ll create a group that desires to go for it.”
That appears like a very good first step for Pakistan as they hope to convey a few change they so desperately want.