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Tuesday May 28, 2024

On thin ice

PHF should take comprehensive steps aimed at bringing improvement in the quality of our players

By Editorial Board
April 21, 2024
The logo of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). — PHF website/File
The logo of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). — PHF website/File

Pakistan hockey could be facing international suspension following a bitter infighting between two parallel factions in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), the governing body of the sport in the country. Following the resignation of Brig Khalid Khokhar as PHF president, the former caretaker prime minister had appointed Mir Tariq Bugti, a politician from Balochistan, as the new head of the body, in his capacity as chief patron of the federation. In another development Shehla Raza, a politician from Sindh, was ‘elected’ as the first female president of the PHF. Both factions claim legitimacy and their power struggle has thrown hockey, already trapped in a downward spiral, into complete disarray. Such is the level of chaos that currently there are two national training camps taking place in Islamabad and Karachi in preparation for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, an international event which will be played in the Malaysian city of Ipoh from May 4-11. The camp in Islamabad under progress at the Naseer Bunda Stadium is being supervised by the Bugti-led PHF while the Karachi camp is being conducted at the Hockey Club of Pakistan Stadium by the PHF with Raza at its helm. It remains to be seen which PHF will be able to send its team to Ipoh since only one Pakistan team can feature in the tournament.

With the way things are progressing there is clear and present danger that the event’s organizers might drop Pakistan from the entry list due to the current turmoil. This is a really sad state of affairs for Pakistan hockey, which has suffered over the years because of a variety of issues ranging from poor management, lack of funds and thinning of the player pool. It is very important for the national game that the current dispute is resolved as soon as possible. The onus is on the prime minister to put an end to this infighting. As chief patron of the PHF he has the power to do so. Pakistan, once regarded as the most successful hockey-playing nation in the world, has slumped to almost rock bottom. It is currently ranked No 15 in the international rankings, a far cry from the undisputed No 1 spot it held for years on the back of a record three World Cup titles, Olympic gold medals and numerous other international titles. But Pakistan’s last Olympic win came way back in 1984 while its last World Cup title was won in 1994. In recent times, Pakistan has even failed to qualify for both the Olympics and the World Cup. It won’t be featuring in the upcoming Summer Games in Paris after failing to qualify for the Olympics having already missed the Games in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. And if concrete steps are not taken now, there are fears that Pakistan will suffer the same fate in the lead up to the 2028 Olympic Games to be held in Los Angeles, venue of their last title-winning triumph in the 1984 Games.

To put Pakistan hockey back on track, all stakeholders will need to put their differences aside. Whether it is Bugti at the helm or Raza, the PHF should take comprehensive steps aimed at bringing improvement in the quality of our players. That can only be achieved through proper coaching and maximum possible international experience and exposure. Pakistan might have slumped to No 15 in the world but all is still not lost. It is time that we start the rebuilding process and pull our hockey out of its current slump.