Olympian Kamran Ashraf has said that the year 2018 would be crucial for Pakistan hockey and that the efforts of PHF to revive the national game will bring fruit.

The Green-shirts are going to participate in a number of international events. “Besides,our junior players are also going to mature and will prove to be the backbone of our hockey,” he said while talking at Abdul Sattar Hockey Stadium on Tuesday.

Kamran, a famous center forward of his time and the top scorer for Pakistan in 1994 Sydney Hockey World Cup, said it was the plan of PHF to train the junior boys through participation in the Australian domestic hockey, which is considered most difficult in the current era.

He said that some former Olympians who criticised the PHF management and its secretary Shahbaz Ahmed, should remember that when the current management of PHF took charge, Pakistan hockey team had failed to qualify for the World Cup and Olympics. “The country’s domestic hockey had collapsed and a number of ranking events had been abolished. More than a dozen domestic teams had been closed,” said Kamran, who was the head coach of Pakistan Under-18 team that won the Australian National Under-18 championship this year.

“It was the PHF’s efforts which revived the domestic hockey and brought back hockey fraternity to grounds, established new hockey teams, provided jobs to players and revived a number of closed teams,” said Kamran.

“Pakistan had been in total isolation. No country was inviting us. Nor any foreign hockey team was interested in visiting Pakistan,” he pointed out.He said that things could not be turned around overnight. “During the two years of the current PHF management, a number of domestic hockey events have been organised, including the national championship, junior championship, COAS tournament, CNS Pakistan tournament, Nishan-e-Haider 9-a-side and 5-a-side championship. Moreover, it revived school hockey across the country. As a result, each province of the country right now has three or four teams at the junior level, which shows that hockey is progressing at the grassroots level,” said Kamran.He observed that it was the PHF’s efforts and secretary Shahbaz Ahmed’s standing in the world hockey that a World XI was coming to Pakistan.

“The PHF secretary played an instrumental role in the revival of our hockey, used his connections across the leading hockey-playing countries to bring players to Pakistan. The only problem is that our senior team is not performing well. But efforts are being made to improve their performance and we hope that the Green-shirts will play well in 2018,” he said.

“We will have to be patient because we had a poor structure of domestic hockey. We lacked international matches and there were several other problems. We should admit that we are behind in modern-day hockey,” he said.

He said that if the critics of PHF had any plan to improve the performance of Pakistan hockey team, they should give it to PHF. “We will consider it,” he said.Kamran said that the under-18 team that won the Australian national championship would participate in Australia’s under-21 championship next year which would “narrow the gap between modern-day standard hockey and our level of hockey,” he said.

He said that Pakistan Hockey League (PHL) in April next year was the vision of Shahbaz. “It will benefit our hockey. We will have high-class players here, which will improve the standard of our hockey and earnings of the players will also rise,” he said.

News by: Syed Intikhab Ali