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Friday December 03, 2021

Greenshirts’ absence from the Olympics surprises many in Tokyo

July 21, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hockey’s fate and its surprising absence from the Tokyo Olympics was the talk of the Village especially when any foreigner confronted the green flag carrier.

As Tokyo Games spring into action Friday with the opening ceremony, members of the Pakistan contingent face repeated queries on the country’s chances on the hockey field. The one who asks the question gets utterly surprised on learning that Pakistan is not part of the hockey event.

“Wherever I turn up in the Olympic Village, athletes, and officials reaching here from across the globe start asking me as to how strong are Pakistan’s chances in the Olympic hockey event. They get surprised when I tell them that Pakistan could not succeed in earning a place in the top 12 qualified to play the Games. This did not happen once but more than five times now,” Dr Asad Abbas Shah, the contingent doctor who has also worked with the national hockey team, told ‘The News’ from Tokyo.

“Are you here with the Pakistan team? And what are the team's chances?” others ask. Asad said sometimes he could not get proper words as to what had gone wrong. “I continue to give one reason or the other as to what has gone wrong that resulted in former world and Olympic champions inability to make the top 12 teams of the world that are to play the Olympics.”

He added that a few Pakistan athletes also faced the same situation. “A few of the athletes who have reached the Village also faced such questions. They politely replied that we are not hockey players or we are not here with the team. This time around our hockey team is not featuring at the Games.”

For the second successive Olympics, Pakistan hockey is missing the cut of the top 12. There was no Pakistan hockey team in Rio in 2016 and yet again Pakistan missed the qualification. Meanwhile, Australia start as favourites in the men’s hockey event at Tokyo Olympics.

Australia, currently the top-ranked team in world hockey have been placed in Pool A, where they will face eight-times Olympic gold medallists India, reigning Olympic champions Argentina as well as Oceania rivals New Zealand, Spain and hosts Japan. Besides Australia, Belgium and Holland (placed in Pool B) have the potential to go all the way.