Revival of the national sport

For Pakistan hockey to bounce back, we need a comprehensive overhaul

Revival of the national sport

Background for the title is familiar to all hockey lovers who have seen the glory (probably the last generation alive) and feel pain for the current condition. None of the stakeholders can be absolved of the responsibility for bringing the game to the lowest ebb.

All are to blame for the decline, proportionately, from top policy makers to players. As a nation we are prone to physical inactivity and lack of discipline. We need a push, pressure or a (financial /social) motivation to get engaged with the games or workout. A candid and sincere think tank comprising specialists can help decision makers in elucidating all-encompassing revival mechanisms.

We have changed the people many times but we couldn’t change the people. The current system is not delivering; we need to take this system out and implant a new one.

Areas of concern: policy and vision, management techniques, infrastructure development, and game development.

What is needed: involvement of veterans, decentralised approach (federal to district governments), public-private partnership (P3) approach, accountability and transparency, and cultural change.

Policy and vision

Strong policy gives birth to positive outcomes. Policy with definite motives comprising clear direction and resources for the attainment of objectives is mandatory for the revival of hockey. Though sports and education have been devolved to provinces after the 18th Amendment, for the national honour a consensus can sincerely be generated. A policy with no political biases is the need of the time. Federal and provincial governments must rise above the limited vision and look for regaining the lost honour in the game of hockey.

Hockey, despite being the national game, is taken like any other; tug of war or basketball, etc. It must be freed out from the shackles of PSB and given a status like PCB.

The revival of the national game is a gigantic task and we expect an honorary president with no salary package to deliver. Wow! It should be the bread n butter of the president, a full-time paid job.

Hockey is treated as any other game barring cricket. The status of the game demands an upgradation to a level of an autonomous board like that of PCB. Constitutions of PHF and its associations are too vague, non-delegative and over-centralised; it needs drastic changes to accommodate modern management techniques.

Strategies for Media, Marketing, Finance, Legal, Infrastructure Development, Game Development, HRM and Social-psychology are absent within the charter of duties of incumbents. Terms of engagement are inconclusive without reward /award thus entailing dishonesty. Managing a game that too hockey necessitates certain qualification, experience and expertise. It’s an era of specialization. Let the game be handled by specialists with good practices — right man for the right job. A businessman, a corporate sector top manager or a bureaucrat must head the PHF with technocrats in the organisation to modernise game management.

We attribute our downfall to synthetic turfs; rightly so. But who stopped us from laying turfs proportionate to population? Thanks to our faulty, non-consultative and politicised policies only a few have been laid and a few out of place. Turfs should be within easy reach and at commutable distance to children. Turfs and mini-turfs at clubs and educational institutions will afford opportunities for young boys and girls to develop and sharpen their talent.

I personally do not subscribe to the view that lack of funds is hindering growth. The funds have been used in the wrong places. There is no way out but to increase the number of turfs.

Our hockey was an art made a science now by game dominant countries and we are confused between the two. Genetically and geographically skill is the hallmark of sub-continental hockey. Why couldn’t we garnish our skill with modern techniques of the game? Confused with local and foreign coach options we are left nowhere. Our glorious days can be attributed to the system we inherited at partition.

We had and still have tremendous talent; only tapping is needed at the right time. Revival of club hockey would enable us to groom young boys to excellence.

We need coaches at club and school levels and game strategist at higher levels. Hockey is a vibrant game of one hour; intellect is the dominating quality of sportsmen and sports managers. Let them decide when to apply art (Asian style) and when to go scientific (European style).

We have heroes who brought laurels to the nation. They afforded us the status of the superpower of hockey. Many of them sacrificed personal education and businesses. No material reward is enough for their contribution. Their iconic value merits employment as mentors. Their relevant expertise, proficiency, experience and knowledge of game must appropriately be used at all levels of game development: club, school, college, university, regional and national.

Private sector now considers it a business opportunity when it gets involved in supporting a game and players. Around the world league system is in place for football and cricket; a few examples can be quoted for hockey too. Interest has been shown by Lahore Qalandars. It definitely requires a policy enunciation from the government (modernised PHF) to encourage other franchises of PSL.

A decentralised approach from federal to district governments has better success prospects. We need regional talent hunting, registration and maintenance of players’ database, formulation of regional teams, and grassroots level tournaments.

No resource is sufficient unless limits are imposed with definite accomplishable targets enumerated. An all-encompassing accountability, transparency and performance audit within the game management bodies is mandatory. Misappropriation, lavish expenditure and nepotism deteriorate the players’ motivation and cause a leakage of scarce resources.

We have separated education from sports for various reasons which badly affected the performance in field sports. Ministries of education and sports have to work in unison under the direction of federal and provincial governments.

Revival of the national sport