Claiming the third position at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament is not something we can be proud of
Shahnaz Sheikh Former Olympian
The 29th edition of Azlan Shah Cup concluded with Malaysia winning the title for the first time. Pakistan who had won the title three times got third position. It was after 11 years that Pakistan finished on the podium in this tournament.
It is a regional and third-tier tournament in which those teams participate whose ranking is below 10. This third position seems to have satisfied the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) officials who have produced nothing over the last 7 years.
Present PHF leadership is lucky because of the little involvement of the masses with the national game. For the last so many years, people of Pakistan have been least bothered about the performance of the national team.
Some well-wishers of the game are optimistic that this victory is a first drop of rain but do they think this single drop can bring a change in the desert?
Why did this result become important? Because for the last thirty years the achievement of the team has been fluctuating. But now it is at its worst. Even qualification for mega events has been a big challenge for so many years.
How many people were interested in the result of this tournament? The answer is “a few”.
I have won three gold medals at Asian Games. People were very much involved then but the government did not pay heed as it was considered a regional tournament. Not even a cup of tea was offered by the government.
Now we will discuss the statistics of the tournament and Pakistan’s performance in pool matches.
The tournament was played on a single league basis. Out of 5 matches, Pakistan won only one, against Egypt, the lowest ranked team in the event, and qualified for the third position match.
A total of 72 goals were scored (fg, 35 / pc, 32 / ps, 5) in 18 matches with the ratio of 4 goals per match. This indicates the speed of game has electrified and only attacking hockey with perfection is the way to survive.
In modern hockey the playing strength and bench strength must be equal because in the modern game good play is important but to plan/guide to play is more important.
So many things have changed – from astro turf to fiber stick to plastic balls. Then there have been changes in the rules like no man offside and self-pass.
These changes made hockey one of the fastest outdoor outlets in sports. In natural grass hockey, the ball followed the order of the player but in modern hockey the player follows the instruction of the ball because of speed.
Therefore, in case of any slackness the team has to pay a big price as happened in the match between Pakistan and Korea and in the final between Korea and Malaysia.
The model Pakistan team has adopted for many years is meant for mega stars – those who have capability of ball control with zonal play, and to beat one or two opponent in the midfield for the opening to utilized opportunities in befitting manner but present stars don’t possess such quality which involved individualism with more turnover by opponent and to get tired these elements put more pressure on defense line does mistake and conceded goals subsequently team lost the match.
In my opinion the present players are good when we use them with 1+1 formation and avoid 1X1. This formation gives the concept of team game to help the ball carrier to avoid individualism with the help of help line players as we always use power of skills for power of strength.
The big problem of the federation is not having enough funds and the limited pool of players but it is also a fact that the consultation process has been limited to near and dear ones.
The past 7 years performance of PHF indicates that their thinking speed does not match with the speed of modern hockey.
I will request the IPC Minister and Prime Minister of Pakistan, who is also patron in chief, to take remedial steps to revive the national game. The attitude of the government towards the national game must be clear. Otherwise, we cannot stop further deterioration.
In this regard the restoration of departmental hockey is a must. When there are financial incentives for players, they will prefer to play for Pakistan rather than using the platform of Pakistan for better pay in foreign leagues.
A hockey league in Pakistan is the need of the hour. There are two reasons for that: it will bring economic gains for players; and will enhance the pool of the players.