Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Secretary Haider Hussain has lamented the lack of funding for the game, saying it has led to the national sport's deterioration.
Speaking during Geo News programme Geo Pakistan, Hussain discussed in detail how no support could cost Pakistan its national game. He said that there were no funds when he took charge of the post.
He said that all the hockey stadiums will be forced to shut down if the federation does not receive Rs100 million from Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
"The situation is that if we didn't participate in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, we would be fined," he said, adding that if the Engro Group hadn't supported them, they wouldn't have participated in the Azlan Shah Cup.
Upon being asked if he had contacted the prime minister, Hussain said the federation has written letters to the PM, however, there hasn't been any response as of yet. "We have also asked to meet him so that we can tell him [our] future plans for hockey," he added.
Hussain said that neighbouring countries receive funds worth millions while Pakistan hockey gets Rs3.5 million in funds yearly.
"Our team did not slide down from 10 to 18 in rankings by playing. It happened because we didn't play the hockey pro league," said Hussain, adding that if the team doesn't go to South Africa [for an upcoming tournament], it will slide down to 21 on the rankings.
Talking about a single tour, the secretary said that a tour of 10-12 days requires an expense of Rs7 million to Rs8 million just for the tickets. He compared the high cost of tours to the meagre daily allowance and shared how he campaigned to help increase the allowance.
Talking about the South Africa tour, Hussain said that they will participate at any cost. He said that the national sports board had sent a message to provide 17 tickets, but that they had not received any email.
When asked about the standard number of players in a hockey squad to tour another country, Hussain said that 18 players — with two others on standby — go with the team that includes eight officials such as a physiotherapist, cameraman, manager, video analyser and coaches.
The PHF secretary said that the first match for the South Africa tour is on November 28, and the management doesn't know whether the team will reach on 26 or 27 as they are waiting for the visa.
He said that they could have applied for the visa earlier but the team was playing the Azlan Shah tournament then. He also said they were busy making arrangements for funds and would, otherwise, have applied for a visa earlier.
However, he said that he has high hopes and a strong belief that hockey is a big product as it is Pakistan’s national sport.
“It only needs a bit of time. I have told the Pakistani government to just give us one and a half years and we will get stable and emerge as a big product.”
Hussain said that Pakistan Super League's franchise Lahore Qalandars has a great role in promoting hockey. He said that PHF is going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Geo.
"The team will get many sponsors when two big names are united," he said.
Hussain went on to say that the Federation is going to organise a series between the teams of Karachi and Lahore so that the events pull huge crowds.
He said that they have met the PHF president who has told them that the Federation has to work on many things, including structure. "He [the PHF president] himself is eager to support the national game," he added.
Hussain said that soon people will see the national sport and the National Bank of Pakistan on the same page. He said that they told the NBP board Pakistan will be banned from participating in hockey events if the national team doesn't attend the South Africa tour.
The official said that the NBP board members were shocked to hear that and said that they stand by PHF.
The PHF secretary urged Pakistan International Airline (PIA) to bear the expenses for air tickets for the national squad.
He said that during General Ziaul Haq's regime, there was a system that PIA would support the national game, WAPDA would support cricket and Pakistan Air Force would support squash.
“But since PIA itself needs support, it should at least provide free-of-charge tickets or provide it at half the price," Hussain said.
He said that the PIA shouldn't give funds to the PHF if they have even the slightest doubt.
He further stated that he would salute the coach of the national hockey squad, who is Dutch, for sticking up for the team despite not being paid for months.
“A dutch coach feels the pain that the Pakistani team shouldn’t be left alone. He is so dedicated that he barely sleeps for two to three hours. For whom? The Pakistani team," Hussain said.
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