Pakistan’s newly-hired coach says the country needs to invest in infrastructure to emerge as a strong force in Asia
Pakistan is regarded as one of the most unpredictable volleyball nations of Asia. The team’s growth has never been consistent, mainly due to financial reasons. The team mostly plays inside Asia. Besides, the nation is yet to get its own professional league. Very few players of the country play in foreign leagues. The team also lacks the desired international exposure. In an era when other nations have kept their teams busy throughout the year in top-level international engagements our side hardly appears in one or two events which is not enough if you want to develop the game.Here and there we have beaten the strong sides of China and India and have offered tough resistance to Iran, a mighty side of Asia, in recent years.
In the 1989 Seoul Asian Championship Pakistan’s senior team finished fourth when it lost to China in the third place game 3-2. That has been the best-ever performance from Pakistan. However, since then the brigade has mostly finished seventh, eighth or even lower in recent years in the Asian Championship.
After having trained for two and a half months at Lahore under the newly-hired Iranian coach Rahman Mohammadirad the national brigade is set to leave for Japan on Monday (tomorrow) to feature in the 21st Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship slated to be held in Chiba and Funabashi from September 12-19. The country’s main spiker and professional player Aimal Khan will captain the side which is a combination of youth and experience.
Pakistan have been clubbed in Group B with holders Iran, Thailand and little known Hong Kong.
Last edition’s bronze medallists Japan, India, Qatar and Bahrain have been put in Group A.
Group C carries three-time champions China, last edition’s runners-up and former champions Australia, Sri Lanka and Kuwait.
Four-time champions South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia have been placed in Group D.
Pakistan will begin their journey with the game against Thailand on September 12. This will be followed by their match against Hong Kong on September 13 and Iran on September 14.
The top two teams from each group will play the quarter-finals league. Pakistan are highly likely to beat Thailand and Hong Kong to make it to the quarter-finals league.
Iranian coach Mohammadirad, a former Iran senior team member, has worked extremely hard on the team but he did not get much preparation time as the players had assembled after a long time because of Covid issues.
The team also could not get any international exposure ahead of Japan’s event. It will really be a testing period for Pakistan. As the top two teams of the event will make it to the next year’s World Championship in Russia, so it makes the championship more valuable for all competing sides.
Pakistan tried to arrange some practice matches in Qatar and Turkey but failed due to these nations’ engagement elsewhere. A tour to Iran was under consideration but the idea was dropped due to rising Covid cases there.
Despite all the fears it’s a welcome sign that our team is heading to Japan to feature in the continental event. Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is financially backing.
A senior official of the PSB told me the other day that the board had given Rs4 million to the Pakistan Volleyball Federation (PVF) for the tour and was meeting all other expenses also.
We have a lot of talent in volleyball and if we focus on this sport we can emerge as a strong Asian side in the next few years.
The Asian Championship will also help Pakistan to test itself as the nation also has ahead Asian Games in China next year.
The biggest issue is that of infrastructure. The country needs international standard indoor volleyball facilities in all four provincial capitals.
Iranian coach Rahman Mohammadirad pointed out in an interview with me recently that Pakistan needs much better facilities and equipment for volleyball training purposes. If the infrastructure is boosted it will also help the country to host international volleyball events.
Squad: Aimal Khan (captain), Sheraz, Mubashir Raza, Musawwar Khan, Mohammad Hamad, Fakhar Uddin, Kashif Naveed, Maazullah Khan, Abdul Zaheer, Hamid Yazman, Murad Khan, Afaq Khan, Nasir Ali, Usman Faryad Ali, Muhammad Taufeeq (manager), Rahman Mohammadirad (head coach), Saeed Ahmad Khan (assistant coach), Ihsan Iqbal (assistant coach), Armin Golkari (analyser), Ubaid Ullah Shah (international referee).