Soon after Pakistan flopped miserably in the Junior World Cup and finished ninth in the 16-nation competition held in New Delhi earlier this month, national hockey chiefs announced that they need a big cash injection from the government to lift the sport out of what is a neck-deep crisis. It is understood that the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is seeking a ‘bail-out’ package of Rs500 million from the government to save Pakistan hockey. PHF bosses believe that they can put hockey back on track after receiving funds from the government which they claim will be used in various development projects.
I don’t think that their demand is justified. After all, the PHF has failed to provide a much-needed shot in the arm to Pakistan hockey despite spending hundreds of millions of rupees on various development projects during the last five years. During that period, Pakistan have faltered in almost all major international events. They finished last in the 12-nation World Cup in India in 2010 and even failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Holland. Even at the junior level, Pakistan’s performance is largely unimpressive.
The previous PHF chiefs -- Qasim Zia (president) and Asif Bajwa (secretary) -- also made similar demands after taking over the federation and managed to acquire massive funds from the government. Because of Zia’s association with the PPP, then the country’s ruling party, huge grants were given to the PHF. But during their tenure, Pakistan hockey’s downslide continued unabated.
Now, the current PHF kingpins -- Akhtar Rasool (president) and Rana Mujahid (secretary), are also seeking half a billion rupees which if approved would come from the tax-payers’ pockets.
The Akhtar-Rana duo was associated with the PHF through senior coaching roles at a time when Qasim Zia and Asif Bajwa were at the helm of national hockey affairs.
Akhtar, a former Olympian was brought in by the previous PHF top brass to help revive the fortunes of the national senior team. But with him as Pakistan’s head coach, the national team produced a series of poor performances in major events like the Olympic Games in London in 2012. It was under him that Pakistan suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in history.
Rana, who is also an ex-Olympian, remained the head coach of the national junior team for years. The lot that finished at the ninth place in the Junior World Cup was more or less prepared by him. Just like Akhtar, Rana also failed Pakistan during his long stint as the national junior coach.
It is a pity that even though they failed as coaches, Akhtar and Rana have managed to win key PHF posts following controversial elections. It was hardly surprising when a group of former stalwarts rejected their election and demanded that a free and fair exercise is held to bring in more capable officials to run Pakistan hockey.
However, it is highly unlikely that their demands will be accepted. Both Akhtar and Rana have strong roots in the ruling party and it is feared that the government will back them just like it supported Qasim Zia and Asif Bajwa even at times when Pakistan hockey was experiencing major setbacks.
One hopes that better sense prevails. The least that the government can do is to make sure that the PHF is held accountable for the huge grants that it received in the past. After wasting hundreds of millions of rupees dished out to them by the government from the tax-payers’ pockets, Pakistan’s hockey chiefs are asking for more funds -- Rs500 million to be precise even as the standard of the game continues to slump.
The government should not issue any fresh grants and instead ask the PHF to come out with practical solutions to arrest the downfall of Pakistan hockey. Unless a blueprint is prepared for the revival of Pakistan with all out inputs from the various stakeholders, even a single penny given to the PHF would be tantamount to wastage of public funds.