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June 20, 2018

Oltmans faces tough task as Pakistan play India in opener


June 20, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The opening Pakistan-India match of the 37th Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy that will kicks off on Saturday in Breda (Netherlands) would be a bigger test for Roelant Oltmans in many ways. For the reasons unknown he was recently sacked by Indian Hockey Federation only to be grabbed by Pakistan months later.

Oltmans is no new to country’s hockey as this is the second time he has been hired by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). His first stint as the Greenshirts’ coach turned out to be a disaster in 2003-04 as Pakistan search for positive results never bore desired fruits. Despite having the services of best players, Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2004 Olympics semi-finals, forcing his early exit from the job.

This time around, he is facing a stiffer challenge and that is to prove to Indian hockey that his sacking from the post of head coach was unjustified.

Pakistan and India would be up against each other on June 23 to set the ball rolling in the concluding Trophy. Oltmans would be locking horns with Sjoerd Marijne, the man brought to India for the role of women’s coach, has now taken up Oltmans’ last job. Both previously have coached Netherlands team and are considered close allies. After playing draw against India and dragging the Greenshirts to No 7 place in ten-team Gold Coast Commonwealth Games just two months back, it is to be seen whether Oltmans has prepared the team to a level where they can challenge the best in Champions Trophy.

It has never been easier both financially and administratively to arrange lengthy offshore camps. But here the PHF has extended all possible help to the coach by accepting his proposal to organise a three-week camp in Holland. It is indeed a big cushion for a team and coaching staff in their quest to break title jinx.

Four years back Pakistan came closest to winning the Trophy when the team defeated hosts India and Holland on their way to final where Germany denied Pakistan the title.

Oltmans took charge of the Pakistan team in March this year and he barely had any time with the side leading up to Gold Coast.

In his recent interview, the Dutch national coach did not even rule out rejoining Indian hockey and possibly taking the Champions Trophy occasion to prove a point to a cash rich Hockey India.

“It was a disappointment that our association had to come to an end but that’s how it is in sport. We go our different ways and find bigger challenges. I really enjoyed my work in India for close to five years so for me there’s no reason to say I won’t go back there. I’ve made a lot of friends there and can only look back with a big smile on my face. But maybe at the end of my current commitment with Pakistan it will be time for me to think of a different kind of life,” Oltmans said.

Meanwhile, after assessing players’ form and fitness, the management has dropped four players including Mazhar Abbas (goalkeeper), Rizwan Jr, Rana Sohail and Dilber Hussain from the ongoing offshore camp in Holland.

Final squad for the Champions Trophy: Muhammad Rizwan Sr. (captain), Imran Butt, Amjad Ali, Mohammad Irfan Sr, Mubashir Ali, Aleem Bilal, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Touseeq Arshad, Rashid Mahmood, Tasawar Abbas, Abu Bakar, Muhammad Irfan Jr, Arslan Qadir, Umar Bhutta, Shafqat Rasool, Ali Shan, Azfar Yaqoob and Aijaz Ahmed.

Officials: Manager: Hasan Sardar; Head Coach: Roelant Oeltmans; Assistant Coaches: M.Saqlain and Rehan Butt.

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