Green shirts fail to impress
Pakistan finished at the fifth spot in the recently concluded seven-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after defeating China by 6 goals to 5. The underdogs gave some surprising performances in the tournament such as a 5-5 draw against the mighty Australians. Not so long ago, the performance of the Pakistani team had been quite disappointing in the Hockey World Cup earlier this year. For the first time in the history of hockey, the four-time World Champions earned the last position in the 12-team mega event.
The green shirts, fresh from their most horrible performance at the hockey World Cup, went into the Azlan Shah tournament, parading young enthusiastic players from the junior ranks. Lack of practice and inexperience at the international circuit resulted in some poor performances in the beginning, including a draw against the host team and a 2-4 defeat against traditional rivals India.
But as most talented teams do, they tailored to the circumstances swiftly and made a strong comeback against the Chinese and won the match with a considerable margin of 6-2. In another match, the Pakistani youngsters were up against the mighty Australians. In a shocking performance, the young Pakistani squad came from behind to draw their match against the Aussies at 5 goals each.
The new look Pakistan side performed much better as against their performance in the World Cup. Despite their steady improvements in international hockey, Pakistan does not have a lot of time on their hand. The team will leave for Bangkok, Thailand from 22-30 May to participate in the Asian Games Qualifying Tournament. Seven other teams are going to participate in this qualifying tournament. The teams include Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taipei and Uzbekistan.
If Pakistan wins the tournament, it will qualify to participate in the 16th Asian Games, which are going to be held in Guangzhou, China in November 2010. Experts have said that the six-time Asian Champions must go forward with its young and enthusiastic squad in a bid to revive hockey in Pakistan. Another mega event that Pakistan is going to participate in is the XIX Commonwealth Games, which is scheduled to take place from the 3rd to 14th October in New Delhi, India. Ten international teams will be up against each other. The teams include Pakistan, Australia, Canada, England, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland and Trinidad.
Pakistan should not be disappointed by the poor results at the Azlan Shah Tournament. Former hockey players have suggested that the young players should be given more chances in order for them to gain more experience in the international circuit. Pakistan has to work on their weakness, which in essence is their performance in deep defense. They also need to bring some efficient combinations in the forward line to score more field goals in the future tournaments.
Pakistan Hockey Federation should continue bringing in young blood if they have to make a mark in international hockey. These fresh players must be groomed by organizing as many domestic tournaments in Pakistan. Experts say that they need to bring a few more young players under its magnifying glass before the London Olympics in 2012. The prestigious Olympic games are just around the corner. This is why the top teams in hockey have already started preparing for the event.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation needs to spend more money for training the young blood and further improve the domestic infrastructure of hockey in the country. If compared to countries such as Australia who have more than 300 astro-turf pitches, Pakistan only has a mere handful. On the other hand, hockey players in Pakistan do not get the right monetary rewards for playing hockey for their country.
Poor administration has been the major problem of Pakistan hockey, which is congruent to most sports in the country. But things could change if Pakistan manages to replicate its international success like it did in the past. Pakistan has to take out a lot of positives from their performance at Azlan Shah especially against World Champions Australia. If Pakistan continues to play positive hockey in the upcoming tournaments’, there is no doubt that it will lead to the revival of hockey in Pakistan.