In an otherwise gloomy period for Pakistan hockey, two individuals have brought laurels home in recent times
Since the turn of the century, Pakistan hockey has seen a gradual decline. The downfall has been the worst during the tenure of the incumbent President Pakistan Hockey Federation, Brigadier (retd) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar, who assumed the charge in 2015. The national team’s ranking has fallen from 10th to 16th. More importantly, Pakistan, the record four times World Cup winner, failed to qualify for the last World Cup as well as the Olympics.
During these dark times, occasionally some individuals bring good news for downhearted hockey lovers.
The Asian Hockey Federation at its recent congress meeting conferred honours on umpire Faiz Mohammad Faizi and the young player Hannan Shahid.
Pakistan`s senior umpire Faiz Mohammad Faizi has been appointed as the Chairman Umpiring Committee of the Asian Hockey Federation by the executive board of the AHF - the highest an umpire can attain in the continental federation.
A jubilant Faizi says, “I was at my home in Peshawar when I received the news. It is indeed an honour not only for me but for the country as well”.
Hockey has been his life. “I started playing at school and appeared in junior and national championships from 1978 to 1990. I represented Peshawar, NWFP (now KP), WAPDA and Pakistan Universities in these nationals, and was good enough to attend the national juniors camp in 1980-81.”
In 1990, Faizi started blowing the whistle. “Soon, I was umpiring at Pakistan’s national championships.”
It didn’t take him long to enter the international arena.
“I consider myself lucky that I became an international umpire in 1994. I whistled in the international arena for a long time and retired in 2007 after attaining the superannuation age of 47 for the FIH umpires. During this period, I got promotions to Grade A, and to World Development Panel (a notch below the top tier of World Panel), and umpired in 88 international matches. Major events included Asian Games, Asia Cups, Champions Trophy and Junior World Cup. On the domestic front, I stood in more than ten finals of the national championships.”
After being active on the ground as player and umpire, it was off the ground as the umpire manager.
“In simple words, the umpire manager is the umpires` coach and selector. He appoints umpires at a tournament, gives them feedback after matches, assesses their overall performance and makes recommendations for their future appointments. I went through the required courses of AHF and FIH for the umpire manager before performing the duty at domestic tournaments. Meanwhile, I did advanced courses, and in 2013 the FIH promoted me as International Umpire Manager. In this capacity, I have been to Olympic qualifiers, Asia Cup, and Indoor Asia Cup, among others. In addition, I have conducted umpire development courses in Hong Kong, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.”
And finally, the honour of the Chairman Umpiring Committee of AHF; did he expect that?
“Well, I had been getting appreciation for my work as the umpire manager in international events all these years. You may say, ‘it was in the air’. Still, one can never be sure. I was delighted to get this appointment which runs for four years.”
Designation comes with responsibility. “Now, I have to make appointments of umpires and umpires managers in the AHF tournaments. More importantly, the job involves designing and implementing development programmes for umpires and umpire managers in the 33 member countries of AHF. In addition, we have to arrange exchange programmes of umpires with other continental federations, and also to recommend Asian umpires, based on their performance, to the FIH for the World Cup and the Olympics.”
While the veteran umpire has reached the highest position in the continent, Pakistani youngster Hannan Shahid was declared the “Emerging Player of the Year 2022” by the AHF.
Remarkably, Hannan had only made his international debut the same year. An exciting talent, the striker was Pakistan`s second top scorer in international matches in 2022.
The lad comes from a very renowned hockey family. Ten across three generations have played for Pakistan’s national, junior, or Whites team.
“My family has been the greatest source of strength for me and they felt proud of my achievement. Unfortunately, my mother passed away in 2021 and couldn’t see me play for Pakistan; would have been the happiest person.”
The final selection of the male and female Emerging Player of the Year, as well as the Player of the Year, was announced by the AHF Competition Committee after voting had been done by the coaches of the top 15 Asian hockey countries whose national teams participate on a more regular basis in the international competitions.
All four selectees were also named the AHF Athlete Ambassadors for the next two years. “This is a new initiative. The role entails me promoting the image of hockey, working for players` rights, and at the same time increasing players` awareness about doping, rules of the game, protection gear, etc.”
Apart from the family, he also gives credit to Crescent Model School, Lahore. “The school has excellent sports facilities and I was given a full scholarship. During my time, Crescent Model School won quite a few inter-school tournaments where I was also the captain of the team. After my matriculation in 2021, I have been studying at Government College, Lahore, in the Commerce group”.
Hannan recalls the award function of the AHF in South Korea. “Indeed, a surreal experience! We first stayed in Seoul for a couple of days before travelling to the picturesque resort of Mungyeong where the AHF Congress was held. Attended by the representatives of almost all the 33 member countries of the AHF, I was presented with a trophy and a cheque of $1,000 by the FIH President Tayyab Ikram and the AHF President Fumio Ogura, respectively. It was preceded by a little video clipping which highlighted some of my performances on the pitch.”