Athletes around the globe have started the final round of their preparations for 2016 Summer Olympics which are scheduled in Rio de Janeiro from August 5, 2016.
Men’s hockey event will be the biggest attraction for Olympic fans in Pakistan. It starts from August 7 at the hockey centre in Deodoro, where top twelve teams will fight for the Olympic medals.
Pakistan, currently ranked 10th, are preparing to qualify for the Rio Olympics by participating in the 2015 World League Semifinals in Brasschaat, Belgium, which are to be held in July this year.
During the last few days, I witnessed the loosely coordinated Pakistan hockey camp in Islamabad under the leadership of Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh where the focus is on drills and full sessions are difficult to conduct because of the poor state of the Astroturf.
The lackluster Pakistan side is facing numerous fitness problems. Eight players in the camp suffered hamstring and other injuries, which clearly showed that they were training without the supervision of a physical trainer. Nasir Ali, Smeer and Malik Shafqat who were part of coaching staff have disappeared from the scene and the entire team is at the mercy of Shahnaz.
The state of our preparations can be well judged from the fact that in the recent tour of South Korea, Pakistan had to play four test matches, but they played only three matches against local teams and returned without playing the fourth match.
We must remember that modern hockey is quite different from grass hockey and as per new rules the matches in the Olympics will not be of two halves but of four quarters of 15 minutes. This new pattern will not only add colour to hockey from media and marketing perspectives but it will also make hockey speedier and add new dimensions to the art of coaching.
The role of coach will become vital as he will have to command and execute his plans for four new theaters by employing the best possible players and utilising the bench strength as the situation demands.
In such a scenario the services of senior players like Shakeel Abassi and Haseeb will be missed by the team.
The road to success for Pakistan will not be easy. I fear Pakistan may slip below the 10th spot and our fans may be shocked not to find Pakistan hockey team in Rio Olympics.
Leaving all long-term solutions aside, the government must interfere in the national hockey affairs, dismiss the present federation forthwith and give the charge to a high-powered five-member committee that should put up its recommendations to the government for a phased development of hockey in the country.
The government in coordination with private sector should immediately establish a national hockey academy in Swat or Abbottabad where students under the age of 14 years should be imparted coaching along with education.
The government and PHF should seriously consider the names of Australian coaches Charls worth and Reed to be engaged as coaches and advisors to develop the Pakistan hockey on modern lines and get rid of old horses who are no more than excess baggage for Pakistan hockey.
It will be impossible for Pakistan hockey to come out of the current situation if the federation continues to live with its ills and keeps its favourites in the team management.
After assessing the whole scenario, I am quite pessimistic and would not like to give the hockey fans any false hope.